GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL
Senior hockey is alive for another season.
Hockey NL announced late today, Oct. 2, a new format for the 2018-19 season, which will see the Central West Senior Hockey League (CWSHL) and the East Coast Senior Hockey League (ECSHL) come together as the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NSHL).
In a press release late this afternoon, Hockey NL confirmed the seven participating franchises will include: the St. John’s Caps, Southern Shore Breakers, CBS Blues, Northeast Eagles, Clarenville Caribous, Gander Flyers and the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts.
All franchises will participate in interlocking games (home and away).
This means the Clarenville Caribous will compete in the ECSHL division for the first time and hockey fans in the Metro St. John’s area will now be able to watch the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts and the Gander Flyers travel east to take on rivals in the ECSHL during regular season play.
Clarenville Caribous general manager Ivan Hapgood says with these parameters, he anticipates the Caribous will play most of their games in Clarenville or the St. John’s area, and have to make just one trip to Central NL.
He says while he doesn’t like the implications of this change, the decision was not a surprise.
“Do I like the fact that we got to make a major change at this point and time? Listen, nobody do. But it is a business, and if the business is not solid financially you got to change your model or close the door,” he told The Packet.
“It’s a decision that was the only possible decision that could work for Clarenville. We had to play more affordable hockey or not play at all,” said Hapgood, who called the merger a “major, major, major,” cost saving effort, citing a downturn in the economy and declining attendances as detrimental to the team.
Under the new setup the West Coast Senior Hockey League (WCSHL) will again operate with four returning franchises and the Deer Lake Red Wings hoping to retain their League Championship status.
The new format will also see a revamped Herder Memorial Championship, Hockey NL explained.
This season’s Herder Memorial Championship will see four teams from the NSHL qualify to participate in a round robin tournament, similar to the MasterCard Memorial Cup, with the winner being crowned the Herder Champion over the 2019 Easter weekend.
“We are excited to implement the next step in our master plan which will return senior hockey to its grassroots while rejuvenating the Herder Memorial Championships,” said Hockey NL Senior Council Chair Gary Gale in the press release.
Hockey NL also said marketing partnerships with provincial and local businesses are being forged to benefit fans and teams alike.
It is anticipated that new League sponsors will be unveiled at a launch event in mid-October along with details on the regular season and Herder schedules.
Hapgood also predicted a major change to Clarenville’s roster.
In line with last year’s decision to finish the season without pay or compensation, Caribous players will once again play for free.
“We have married men on our team who are 35, 36, 38 years old with kids at home. With no remuneration, I would suspect that some of those guys are going to decide not to continue playing hockey. That doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Hapgood, who predicts as much as a 40-50 percent roster change.
“You’re going to see a much younger team,” he suggested, adding the team’s roster for this season should be decided by the end of the week.
Hapgood expects games will begin the first or second week of November.