I'm sitting here wondering what the hockey brass of the NAHA during the 60's would have to say about the "Herder Venue Model" recently announced by the boys in the seat of power today. Guys like Claude Anstey of Corner Brook, Walter Clarke of Grand Falls-Windsor, Eric Dawe of Gander and Don Johnson of St. John's - would they have agreed with this system of playoff? I think not!
I am writing this column on Wednesday, Jan. 25, prior to the day of the big decision, in order to meet a Thursday deadline for a couple of weekly papers. My mind is telling me that better sense will prevail and this decision will be rescinded, for a number of reasons.
You can take a lot of things from a competitive senior hockey league and it will, in some form, continue to function. The one thing you can't remove is the fan, most of whom are volunteers as well. Without the fan you just have another "beer league."
Let's see now, this edict from on high was put in place to promote senior hockey in the province. Are they saying that having Grand Falls-Windsor and Clarenville (should they meet in the finals) play for the Herder in Sin City and Corner Brook, it would foster the game elsewhere? I think not!
Didn't the Pepsi Center have trouble this year putting butts in the 3500 seats to watch the hometown Royals? Does anyone really think the fans would come out to watch two visiting teams? Then, we have Mile One, the home of the AHL's Ice Caps (a tip of the hat to that team), sitting in first place in their division and sold out every game. Do they honestly expect to fill that building for a Herder final, even if the Blades made the final? 2500 to 3000 would be a stretch, with tickets at rock bottom prices. Fill Mile One? I think not!
Picture this: The Cataracts and Caribous in the finals - the teams would go to Mile One for two, across the island to the Pepsi Center for three, then, if necessary, back to Mile One for the final two, how totally absurd. The fans would get to see their players going and coming, going and coming, and if necessary, going and coming again, as they pass through town. The other option would be to play all the games in the one venue, but who would make the choice between Mile One and the Pepsi Center - that too would be fun. Pretty silly isn't it!
Along with the ‘Herder' comes the passionate side of hockey, and just as important is the commercial side for the communities involved: hotels, restaurants, take-outs, garages and stores. Isn't it only right that local sponsors should enjoy the advertising and financial benefits from the influx of people coming to town? I think so!
And now for those who accentuate what the game is really about, the players and the fans. Naturally, the players want to play in front of their own fans. That's what the year has been all about, working their butts off, game in and game out, to finish on top of the league standings, and then on to the finals in hopes of hoisting the prestigious old trophy - on home ice!
But what about the fans under this proposal - the travel, hotels, meals, tickets, incidentals, the possible time lost from work - where is the money coming from? What about all those loyal fans, those that keep the team running, those that paid the $75 for holding seats, and there are 800 of those in GFW - that's $70,000 for the team. I don't have to spell out what that will mean come next season! But more disappointing than the money would be not being able to see their team. And that's sad!
There is nothing right about this decision by HNL and I trust that cooler minds did the right thing on Thursday past. It was time to fess up to their mistake. There have been enough resignations, accusations, allegations, innuendos, and hard feelings. Put it to rest and get on with the games - in their own venues.
Money - the threat of same, or the lack of same, has killed senior hockey in this province on more than one occasion. Just remember, what the Ice Caps do for businesses in downtown St. Johns, our senior hockey teams do for businesses in Mount Pearl, Conception Bay, Clarenville, Grand Falls-Windsor and Corner Brook.