CARBONEAR, N.L. — The president of the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprises CeeBee Stars expects discussions among senior hockey clubs over the next couple of weeks will determine the team’s plans for the fall.
Mark Reynolds was among four members of the CeeBees executive to attend the Hockey NL annual general meeting, held in Gander June 8-10. Speaking with The Compass Monday, June 11, Reynolds said he came away from the meeting with a positive outlook.
“We did get a different feel … senior council certainly seems to be pushing for the CeeBees in general to have hockey, as well as every other community across the province that currently has teams,” he said.
After claiming the Herder Memorial Championship in the spring of 2017, the CeeBees found themselves with no teams to play against in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League (AESHL) when four other clubs bolted to form a new east coast league. Those teams accused the CeeBees of paying players — an accusation the club denied.
“What happened to the CeeBees was completely malicious and wrong,” Reynolds said. “The Avalon East league was in a great place — it was a five-team league, we’d just won the Herder, the executive was completely impartial from any team. It was the best set up in Newfoundland senior hockey in quite a while, with the opportunity to grow and add Mount Pearl, possibly Clarenville, and be a seven-team Avalon league.”
An attempt by the CeeBees to resume AESHL action in a three-team league with Mount Pearl and Paradise stalled when Hockey NL decided it would only grant the league senior B status.
Now, the CeeBees are making another push to get a team back on the ice. While Reynolds acknowledged there was some healthy discussions at the AGM, no final agreement was reached.
“We are hopeful that over the next week or two we might have some further information as to where the CeeBees are going to play this year,” Reynolds said, adding that discussions among the teams will continue over the next little while.
The Central-West Senior Hockey League experienced some hardship last season, with the Clarenville Caribous players agreeing early in the New Year to forego pay in order to finish the season.
Reynolds said the CeeBees have no interest in joining the Central-West league and would prefer to resume play in the AESHL.
“Polling our players and volunteers, what we want is what we were in before — the Avalon East league and that constitution and playing on the Avalon. Guys want to play Friday night and then go home. They’re not interested in travelling. We’re really interested in starting something on the Avalon with other willing teams, and that’s where our focus is going to be.
“If at the end of the day we had to interlock with some of the teams in Central-West and play in their arenas once, we would do that to help them and help their communities and teams, but we’re not interested in being in a league with those teams.”
Interlocking play is something the Central-West league and the new East Coast Senior Hockey League tried out last season. The champions from each league eventually faced off for the Herder, with the Caribous claiming the title for 2018.
Mount Pearl had representation at the AGM in Gander and is reportedly willing to return to senior hockey in a league with the CeeBees. There’s speculation the Caribous could join those two teams in the fall.
“(The Caribous) are certainly a part of our conversation in establishing something on the east coast, but they’re probably still also talking to the Central-West league, so there’s nothing set in stone with them yet,” Reynolds said, adding other teams could be in the mix. “I can’t speak for them … but we have had conversations with Clarenville.”
The loss of the 2017-18 season was not only felt by those involved with the club, Reynolds said, but also the fans and the community of Harbour Grace itself.
“We found it shameful we weren’t able to have a game of hockey or that there wasn’t a mandate to force us to be in the Avalon league or somewhere,” he said. “That’s why we’re working extremely hard to try and get this organization back on track with a game of hockey.”