Central and west coast senior men's hockey leagues still in trouble
With just 2 Central West and 3 West Coast teams, the future of both leagues is uncertain
The hockey season is over, but two of the province's senior leagues are still struggling to hold together enough teams to compete next season.
As of now the Central West Senior Hockey League has only two teams in place: the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and the Gander Flyers.
"At this point in time it's not looking good," said Gary Gale, chair of the senior council for Hockey NL.
Last season the league had an arrangement with the East Coast Senior Hockey League, but Gale said there were several issues with that and there's no guarantee it would work for next season.
"I think it's fair to say there's not a lot of appetite out east to interlock again this season, so we're stuck with two teams in central and you need a third. Ideally, you need a fourth as well."
The central region has a recreational hockey league with five teams, and that has likely also somewhat affected the senior team's ability to recruit, Gale said.
"If they look at putting in a senior team that could mean the demise of the recreation league," he said.
Representatives for the Cataracts and Flyers have said they will lobby the East Coast league to attempt to convince some of its teams to continue to play with the central teams. Last season, three teams travelled to central to play there, an expense that Gale said the Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor teams shouldered.
Struggles out west as well
The West Coast Senior Hockey League is also uncertain for next season, with only three teams in place in Stephenville, Corner Brook and Port aux Basques. Deer Lake's team pulled out of the league last year due to recruitment issues, and Gale says Stephenville's team came close to doing the same.
"It was a struggle just to keep it together," he said.
The Corner Brook Royals are in great shape for their roster, Gale said, and the Port aux Basques Mariners are OK, but the Stephenville Jets struggled and need to bring more players on board.
The Deer Lake Red Wings have said they're interested in putting together a team again, he said, but that changes will be needed in recruitment to make that possible.
One of those possible changes is cutting down on the list of protected players for each team, Gale said, which would make more players available to be drafted by smaller towns.
Right now Corner Brook has a recruitment advantage because it's the region's population centre, and unless things are changed to balance that out, the other teams will continue to struggle, Gale said.
"How far they're prepared to go time will tell," he said of what the Royals and Mariners may agree to for the overall good of the league.
"But unless changes are made and concessions made, we won't have a league in the west."
With files from Newfoundland Morning