It’s happening a couple of weeks later than originally planned, but the East Coast Senior Hockey League will begin its 2019-20 regular-season schedule tonight with games in St. John’s and Torbay.
Officially, the season-opener will be a 7:30 p.m. matchup at Twin Rinks, where the St. John’s Caps will host the defending ECSHL champion Southern Shore Puglisevich Breakers. A half-hour later at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay, the puck will drop to begin a game between the Clarenville Ford Caribous and The Bigs Northeast Eagles.
The league’s fifth returning team, the Conception Bay Blues, plays its first game Saturday at the Eastlink Events in Clarenville, where they will take on the Caribous. Start time of that one is 7:30 p.m.
There is a sixth ECSHL entry this year, and the late addition of the Harbour Grace Ocean Enterprise Ceebee Stars is the reason for the later-than-planned startup.
The CeeBees’ application to join the ECSHL had been rejected by the other teams in September, but Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador later ruled the league had to accept the Harbour Grace-based team or risked being unsanctioned by Hockey NL and, by extension, Hockey Canada. It’s a ruling that was later upheld by Hockey Canada’s appeals committee.
That led to negotiations between the CeeBees and the rest of the league, a process which necessitated the league start-up being twice delayed; it was only just over a week ago that an agreement was reached to bring the CeeBees into the fold.
It also means the CeeBees will be getting underway later than the rest of the league. Team president Mark Reynolds told The Telegram Thursday there was recognition within the ECSHL that the CeeBees would need more time to organize properly; he suggested a schedule for his club could be finalized by this weekend, with the likelihood of the CeeBees playing their first games, including their first home game at the Danny Cleary Community Centre, on the last weekend of the month.
Reynolds added the CeeBees, who have a preliminary roster of more than 20 players, were to hold their first practice Thursday night.
There is a fourth game on the ECSHL schedule this weekend. That's Sunday (7 p.m.) at the Ken Williams Southern Shore Arena in Mobile as the Breakers take on the Eagles after having raised their 2018-19 league championship banner.
Overall, the league is expected to have 60 regular-season games, or 20 per team, although the CeeBees’ schedule may be different, depending on whether they play interlocking games against the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Gander Flyers, who make up a two-team Central-West Senior Hockey League.
firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @telysports