Will not join league if they can’t play Herder at home: GM
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Although the Gander Flyers organization is still in it’s infancy, GM Garry White said unless HNL changes their decision on Herder venues so teams can choose to play at home, they won’t be joining the league.
The season is long over for senior hockey fans, and the uproar surrounding Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador's controversial decision on this year's Herder Memorial Championship venues has fallen silent.
Earlier this year, the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts organization and their fans were outraged when Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador (HNL) made the decision that all games in the Herder Memorial final series would be played in either St. John's or Corner Brook, not in home stadiums in front of fans. This was an attempt to maximize revenue for their new revenue sharing model. During the series between the Cats and the Clarenville Caribous, fans complained of dismally empty stadiums, and many speculated there would be little, if any, revenue to share amongst the teams in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League (NLSHL).
The Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts have not come out with their official stance on the controversy since the series ended, and no information on seat sale numbers, or the revenue sharing among the teams in the league, has been made public by HNL.
But there's at least one team saying unless HNL changes it's policy – they're out.
Earlier this month, the Advertiser reported that a committee had been formed in Gander to resurrect the Gander Flyers as a senior men's team in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League for the first time in 30 years.
The prospect was met with excitement by hockey fans in Gander, as well as the Cataracts organization in Grand Falls-Windsor. Cats President Paul Glavine called it a "win-win"
situation as it would bring back an old rival, cut down on traveling expenses for the Cats, and due to the proximity of the two towns, result in more hockey for fans in central.
Flyers General Manager Garry White said the organization is working "full speed ahead" in the planning stages, and are working with the assumption they will have a team ready to hit the ice in the fall.
That is, unless HNL plans to stand behind the Herder model used this past season.
"We understand that HNL has the full rights to the Herder memorial trophy, and we respect their decision to play where they see fit," said White. "But we are also looking at it from a Gander Flyers perspective, and we, as team organizers, would like to have the option of taking the team to the Mile One or play it at the Gander Community Centre."
White said the official stance of the Flyers is if they do join the NLSHL and are lucky enough to make the Herder, they would want to play it at home in front of their own fans.
"If that option is not made available, I know that majority of the people that are working on our committee have indicated that they could no longer proceed," he said.
White admits it's a little early to talk about playing the Herder when the team hasn't even joined the league yet, but he said these are all things that need to be considered when approaching sponsors in the community.
"(The committee) doesn't think it's fair to go to the community to ask for local people to support us, and to ask for business to support us, only at the end of the day when the big show is ready to happen, it's taken away from Gander," he said.
White said the team has already received tons of support from community members, and are projecting attendance levels of around 850-1,000 per game. He said he doesn't think it's fair to fans that support the team all year to have to go elsewhere and incur extra expenses to see them play, should they make Herder.
According to White, the Flyers will be sending representatives to attend HNL's league meeting in Grand Falls-Windsor on May 26, and hope to know more about the Herder situation then.
For now, he said they will continue with the planning, but will not be approaching sponsors until they hear HNL's stance.
"This team is being ran as a business, but it's not a private business, it's a community business," he said. "Every organization that's operating a team in this league has got to look at the best interests of their team and supporters, and that's what we're doing."