Newfoundland Senior Hockey has seen its share of controversy in the past....
Goodbye Corner Brook,Hello DeerLake
The Corner Brook Royals are no more. Team owner Mr. Ross Coates has decided to rename the team The Western Royals and move 52 kms up the highway toDeerLake. This has left manyCorner Brookhockey fans in disbelief but others acknowledge the move as long overdue. With a 75-year history in the city ofCorner Brook, the Royals have been a pinnacle in Newfoundland Senior Hockey in the province and are arguably one of the best hockey franchises this province has ever seen.
The move toDeerLakeshouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who follows senior hockey. TheCorner Brookversion of the Royals has struggled for several seasons both on and off the ice. Despite some close to the organization indicating otherwise, the Royals struggled with coaching, management and with morale in the dressing room. Players weren’t performing, fans weren’t happy and revenues were down.
This heralded franchise looked like it would be no more until Mr. Ross Coates stepped into the picture two years ago.
He embraced the City ofCorner Brookand the Royals, making moves to strengthen the team both on and off the ice. He built what looked liked the most competitive team ever in recent Royals history. He brought in some of the most recognized talent in the province, signing players such as Terry Ryan and Donnie Gosse. He reached out to bring in some imports and made changes throughout the backend of the organization.
There were many hockey watchers who thought the team had great potential but some fans weren’t sold on the changes. Many criticized the Royals for recycling old talent, not embracing younger talent and building a team that could play a faster, transitional game that was the new reality in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League.
The team did itself little favours on the ice, failing to live up to expectations. As a result, attendance was down. Coates did seek a better deal from the Pepsi Centre and made drastic moves to bring people to the arena when he went as far as stopping the local radio station from carrying the games.
Coates kept the team inCorner Brookfor two-years. He wanted the team to succeed here and wanted to build a winning team. His efforts weren’t rewarded and as a businessman, he faced the harsh reality of having to deal with the true economics of running a team in the NLSHL.
Some have indicated moving the team toDeerLakewill do nothing other than lower the costs of operating. There’s the perception thatDeerLakeis a “Red Wing” town and will only support a “Red Wing” team and that the “Royals” brand won’t work there.
DeerLakeis a hockey town. It’s filled with hockey fans and the absence of the Deer Lake Red Wings last season has starved the area for some good ole hockey! Everyone is forgetting there were large numbers ofDeerLakeresidents making the trek toCorner Brookto watch Langdon and the Robinsons lace up withCorner Brook. There were some games when the numbers fromDeerLakeout numbered those fromCorner Brook.
Ross Coates isn’t new to business and running a team in the NLSHL is a business. He didn’t just make the move without considering the economics and the pros/cons. He did what was not only essential to save his investment in the team but to keep senior hockey here on the West Coast because if you look at the new reality in the league, the five other teams in the league are located central – east. This league can and will survive withoutCorner Brookand even withoutDeerLakeas participants.
This is a move that allows Coates and the Royals to leave behind the baggage associated with the “Corner Brook Royals” and start a new chapter for senior hockey here on the West Coast. When the dust settles over this, there will be hockey here on the West Coast not in spite of the move, but because of the move.
A loss forCorner Brookis a gain forDeerLake. It’s too bad that it happened, but this is the new reality of senior hockey.
To weigh in on the discussion, don’t forget to visit http://www.nlhockeytalk.ca/hockey – where you will get the latest thoughts from fans, just like you.