A week ago, the Conception Bay CeeBee Stars were the only senior hockey team on the Avalon Peninsula not in the Avalon East Senior Hockey League.
But now, in a strange turn of events, the CeeBees have been allowed back in the league, and the other four teams have quit.
- 'Too foolish': 2 top scorers on CeeBee Stars deny pay-for-play accusations
- Capitals president accuses CeeBees of paying players, team denies wrongdoing
While the others move on to form a new league, one former executive has stayed behind, tasked with finding competition for the CeeBees to play against.
"The court of public opinion can decide exactly how they feel on that," said CeeBees president Mark Reynolds. "From what I've seen, most of them are coming to the same conclusion that we are — which is disgust."
Reynolds said the team is optimistic the remaining executive member, Rob Leaman, will find competition for the CeeBees to play against this season.
While he isn't sure where new teams will crop up, Reynolds said it will be interesting to see what the players of the now-former AESHL teams decide to do.
Calls to St. John's Capitals president Jack Casey — who previously spoke on behalf of the Capitals, Northeast Eagles, Southern Shore Breakers and Bell Island Blues — were not answered.
Former teams to form new league, face CWSHL teams
Harbour Grace was booted from the AESHL this month by Casey and the presidents of the three other teams.
They stated the CeeBees were too different from their organizations — they had a bigger fan base, made more money and were accused of paying players. The last allegation has been vehemently denied by players and staff.
'I don't find it ironic, I find it embarrassing.' - Mark Reynolds
The CeeBees filed an appeal with Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador. During the appeal process, the four teams sent a second letter to Reynolds, notifying him they could rejoin the AESHL but they would be the only team left.
The Capitals, Eagles, Breakers and Blues are now forming a separate league and will play exhibition games throughout the season against semi-professional teams in the Central West Senior Hockey League.
The plan is still awaiting sanction by HNL, but is expected to go ahead.
The idea of an interlocking schedule may seem strange, since CWSHL teams have larger fanbases, higher budgets and pay their players — all things that were used as grounds to kick the CeeBees out of the Avalon league.
"I don't find it ironic, I find it embarrassing," said Reynolds. "It's a major black eye on senior hockey in the province. How HNL has dealt with the process has put a major black eye on hockey as well."
None of my business, says Clarenville Caribous GM
While executives and players in the CWSHL were not thrilled by the turmoil surrounding their neighbouring league, there was no choice but to do business with the four remaining teams.
Their league is down to three teams — the Clarenville Caribous, Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and Gander Flyers — and needed outside competition to move forward.
"Any time you've got controversy like that, it's concerning," said Caribous general manager Ivan Hapgood. "It's concerning for hockey in general … But we had no alternative."
Reynolds said he has heard from players all across the island, in all leagues, who stand with the CeeBees.
When asked if he felt any trepidation about joining forces with the league, Hapgood took the high road.
"Sometimes what you don't say is as good as what you do say, and I prefer not to say nothing about that situation."
The Central West Senior Hockey League is planning to start play in the first week of November. Pending HNL approval, all teams from both leagues will play each other at least once.