Efforts Underway to Salvage CWSHL/ECSHL

Updated: October 31, 2019

It’s the midnight hour and the East Coast Senior Hockey League is facing the harsh reality of not being able to operate in the 2019-20 season. On Monday, Hockey Canada ruled on an appeal and refused to overturn a decision by Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador to not sanction the league.

The ECSHL appealed HNL’s ruling to not sanction the league after the CBN CeeBee Stars were denied entry into the league.

There is a lot of bad blood between the CeeBees and the various leagues in recent years. In 2018, the CeeBees expressed an interest in reviving the AESHL. This was rejected by HNL, leaving the CeeBees an option to join the Central West Senior Hockey League. Scheduling difficulties and player availability resulted in the CeeBees sitting the season.

Sources close several of the teams who would have participated in this year’s ECSHL have indicated the main reason for rejecting the CeeBee Stars from joining stems from a lot of the controversy and bad blood from previous seasons. Our sources have indicated and stated that many of the teams and league executives are playing politics with the hockey season and are of the opinion that bruised egos are playing more of a role than people will admit.

A meeting on Monday night failed to resolve the situation. The league has been told that the CBN CeeBee Stars must play if HNL is going to sanction the league. Our sources have indicated that HNL may also mandate interlocking play with the CWSHL in an effort to prop up that league, providing the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Gander Flyers with an expanded schedule and more opponents.

Newfoundland Hockey Talk has been told that the CBN CeeBee Stars have agreed to play interlocking games but HNL wants other teams from the ECSHL to also agree to do the same. Other teams have refused to agree to this stipulation indicating they cannot afford the costs associated with such an arrangement.

We have also learned that several team reps have requested a meeting with Jack Lee, President of Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador and that this meeting is reportedly occurring on Tuesday. Our sources are uncertain as to what is on the agenda for that meeting but say it is certain to involve finding a compromise to this stand-off and to salvage the league operations.

However, according to our sources, it is clear there is no consensus on what has to be done to salvage the season and there are some who want to force interlocking games on at least two of the teams slated to be a part of the ECSHL. Several of the teams held private discussions before the league meeting on Monday. This was done to develop a “Plan B” that would see the league operating in some hybrid form of what was proposed by HNL. While the exact nature of these conversations are not known at this point but given the history within Newfoundland senior hockey, you can take rest assured teams are looking after their own interests. Why else would private discussions occur with select teams?

Sources within the league have also indicated that the draft is scheduled to occur on Sunday, November 3, 2019. The ECSHL has also issued a statement where it says:

The East Coast Senior Hockey League executive, its teams and HNL representatives continue to work on the details surrounding the 2019/20 season. All parties are confident they will reach an agreement and the season will not be lost!

While the delayed start is not ideal, we appreciate our fans patience as we work hard to ensure the long term viability of our league and senior hockey in Newfoundland!

This statement is an attempt to save face considering it was the league’s executive that created this mess by denying the CBN CeeBee Stars entry into the league. They also prompted the appeal to Hockey Canada. With Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador insisting the league would not be sanctioned without the CeeBees, one has to wonder what is different at the present time?

NL Hockey Talk has also confirmed that the CeeBees have been meeting with several individual teams. The nature of these conversations are not known at this time.

There is speculation that these meetings are to secure at least a third team (CBN CeeBee Stars) to play games in the Central West League. This would make sense considering the Gander Flyers recently issued its own statement:

Just wanted to let everyone know that we are still in talks with HNL and the Senior Council for Senior Hockey in NL and trying to work out a solution for this season and discussions are happening daily and ongoing. We are aware that by now we would have had our Game Opener posted and well on our way to begin the season. Both Gander and Grand Falls have been working daily with the league and officials and other stakeholders to try and secure at a minimum a 3rd Team for the CWSHL which is what we need to start the season based on HNL Rules. There are many components to making this happen and we appreciate everyone’s patience so far and apologize on behalf of the organization as to the limited details that can be provided at this time. As soon as updates become available we will be glad to share. Our objective is to keep hockey in Central long term but more immediate see that we can hit the ice this season!

This “third team” may come from interlocking matches with the ECSHL if sanctioned by HNL.

Will there be an ECSHL this season? Will there be a CWSHL this year? It is anyone’s guess at this moment but one thing is certain, the teams, executives and HNL are trying to put something together for this season. This delay highlights the fragility of senior hockey in the province but also shows the politics/egos involved.

Good luck to all those involved in attempting to fix this mess.

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