Future of West Coast League

Updated: August 20, 2019

The West Coast Senior Hockey League has had several successful years, combining local talent with some long standing rivalries. However, the future of the league has come into question as teams such as Stephenville & Deer Lake struggle with attracting players.

After the 2018-19 season, the Stephenville Jets found themselves sitting in the basement of the standings, winning just 2 regular season games and losing 2 in overtime in the 12-game regular season. However, the Jets have had an issue with attracting devoted local players and saw this as their major challenge to being part of the 2019-2020 season.

The Deer Lake Red Wings on the other hand have expressed an interest in returning to the league after sitting out the previous season. Deer Lake, while actively recruiting players for the upcoming season, have said they are not interested in playing in a league with just three teams. According to Perry Compton with the Red Wings, “It just doesn’t work for us. So if Stephenville doesn’t have a team, I guess their won’t be a league.

This leaves the future of the league up in the air.

Teams have estimated that it costs between $50-$75,000 to operate in the league, with the Red Wings and Mariners having some of the highest costs, primarily because the majority of the players come from outside their respective areas. This means travel and accommodations are generally higher.

Art Barry with the Jets says there has to be something done to ensure league parity. “When Deer Lake hauled out last year, we had a meeting and decided to go with a balanced three-team league. If someone can tell me that was balance league last year, I’ll eat my shorts,” says Barry. According to Barry, players would rather be doing something different than playing hockey for the Jets, creating a situation where teams may have to end up paying players from outside the region to balance the league.

Barry is still optimistic stating “I’m not saying right now we’re pulling out, but I can’t see it working. We have to get more players, but where do I get players I don’t have to pay? And, if Deer Lake is back this year, it’s going to be even harder to get players to come play with us.”

Under the current league rules, no player can be paid for their services, other than being reimbursed for their costs and teams can only select players from Western Newfoundland. Each team is limited to a specific territory in the vicinity to select players from and each team must submit a list of protected players within their assigned territory. Players outside the list are free for teams to select.

Deer Lake is also concerned that it will find enough players. Many of its former players have moved away or out of the region, but Compton is looking for 10 quality players to commit to playing.

The Corner Brook Royals have indicated they would help Stephenville access more of the players within the Corner Brook territory.

Whatever happens, the future of the league is still up in the air with only a few months until the anticipated start of league play.

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