Newfoundland Senior Hockey has seen its share of controversy in the past....
The “AAA” Competitive Imbalance
The current makeup of Triple “AAA” Peewee and Bantam hockey within our province is an abject failure. In its wisdom (or lack thereof), Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) has flexed its muscles to form a provincial league that is composed of players from the St. John’s, Trinity-Placentia (TriPen), Conception Bay Region (TriCom), Central and Western minor hockey leagues. In effect, it has created a league that is destined to be dominated for the most part by teams from two locations (St. John’s/TriCom areas) with Central and Western Teams lagging well behind.
At the time we penned this article, the current standings at the AAA Bantam level shows that the St. John’s team well out in front of the standings, with a record of 20-1-1-0, accumulating 41 points overall. In second place is the TriPen team with a record of 14-4-1-1 (30 points). Close behind in third place is the TriCom team with an 11-10-5-1 record (28 points). This is where the current imbalance comes to light when you have the Central team setting well back with a record of 4-16-41 (13 points) and the Western team sitting in the basement with a record of 4-18-1-1 (10 points).
The disparity continues when you examine the AAA Peewee results. St. John’s again leads the way with a record of 19-2-2 (40 points), followed by TriCom at 18-3-1-0 (37 points), TriPen at 6-13-1-0 (13 points), Central at 6-17-0-1 (13 points) and Western at 6-18-0-1 (13 points).
In speaking with some of the parents with children involved in this level of play, they express their concerns and displeasure at the current structure. Not only is it impacting player morale in the Central and Western ranks, it is creating arrogance in the ranks of the winning teams. This is also carrying over to the parents, volunteers and organizers at the league level. These are the people that are experiencing the frustrations at home and trying to put on a brave face in light of what is occurring throughout the league and on the ice.
Before HNL established the current makeup of Triple AAA hockey within the province, many of the home leagues were seeing an increase in participation at what they considered the “Elite” level of the game. Players were more willing to try-out, participate and looked forward to competing beyond their house leagues. It is evident now that interest is waning and speaking to people privately they will tell you it’s the current imbalance that is a major contributing factor.
There are those from the winning leagues that indicate they have a much larger pool of players in their respective areas. They indicate that talent is also cyclical and that the current imbalance is not so much about the league makeup but more about a great group of young hockey players that have come along at the same time. They liken it to an alignment of “stars” and “planets”, seeing nothing wrong with the fact that one or two areas are dominating the current structure.
At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves is this good for the game of hockey here in Newfoundland and Labrador? Sure there are those players with dreams of following the likes of Dan Cleary and Michael Ryder to the NHL, but in all likelihood, many of today’s younger players will be lucky to make it to the ranks of a great junior team or even to one of the Newfoundland Senior Hockey teams.
The focus in our opinion is that the current structure is broken and is taking the fun out of the game for both the players and the parents. No one enjoys losing but when you have the governing body of hockey here in Newfoundland fixing the structure of play to benefit certain areas, one has to question such wisdom.
It is time for something to change at the Triple “A” level of hockey here in the province. The game has to be returned to being both competitive and fun for all those involved.
Stay tuned for more on this issue as we examine Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador’s jockeying the system to favour St. John’s teams.