Of course, the bigger question is will there even be a Central West circuit next year.
Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador held its annual general meeting in Gander over the weekend, and the future of the Central West league generated discussion in the Senior Council meetings.
Currently, there are three senior leagues in the province — the five-team Avalon East loop, and the fledgling four-team West Coast league, which didn’t get under way last season until March.
The Central West League struggled in 2016-17 with three teams — Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts, Clarenville Caribous and Gander Flyers. It ran into trouble towards the end of the regular season when Gander announced it couldn’t finish out the year, which led to a couple of weeks’ respite before the league commenced with its playoffs.
Gander, it appears, is still on the fence for next season. There is some talk of Twillingate or Lewisporte joining the league, although one league official suggested if Gander is not part of the league’s equation for next season, he sees little hope for its survival.
There is also a train of thought of getting the Avalon East and West Coast leagues playing some sort of abbreviated schedule with the Central West operation, although that idea has its share of detractors.
If the Central West league is to survive, it will have to do so without import players, and that fact was mutually agreed upon at the weekend meetings.
“Every year,” said Senior Council chairman Gary Gale, “there would be long, long — and I mean long — periods of time in which the import rule would dominate discussions.
“We got it done this year in five minutes. Cloud lifted.”
Teams in the Central West league — in-house rules within the Avalon East and West Coast leagues forbid imports entirely — will only be permitted to pick up an import goaltender.
And any Newfoundlander who lives outside the province will still be considered an import … i.e. Hodge’s Cove native Jason Churchill of the Caribous, who lives in the Halifax area where he’s an aircraft mechanic.
One can only hope a decision on whether or not there will be a league can be made in equally short order.
Jack Lee of the Goulds was elected to his fourth term as president HNL over the weekend. Also returning to executive committee positions were Gale from Hampden, Murray Roberts of Botwood (vice-president), Arnold Kelly of Happy Valley-Goose Bay (minor chairman) and Ken Chafe of the Goulds (Hockey Development chair).
Three new committee members were elected. Charlie Kearsey of St. John’s takes over as junior chairman from Gerry Taylor of Mount Pearl, who did not seek re-election. Ed Flood of Corner Brook is the new referee-in-chief, winning an election over incumbent Don Kelly of Mount Pearl, and Debbie Bouzane of Gander is the new female hockey chair, replacing Carolyn Yates of Botwood, who did not seek re-election.
Gerry Evans of Mount Pearl remains as HNL’s past president.
Six new members were inducted in the Newfoundland and Labrador Hockey Hall of Fame during the annual awards banquet Saturday night.
Inducted into the player category were Glenn Critch of St. John’s, Ed Kearsey of Corner Brook and Michael Ryder of Bonavista. Kevin “Fox” Fagan of St. John’s goes into the builder category and Derek Clancey and Darryl Williams of St. John’s go into the Hall in the athlete-builder category.
Dec Lacour of Harbour Main, Kenny Williams of Bay Bulls and Taylor were awarded life memberships in Hockey NL.
HNL 2016-17 award winners
Brian Wakelin Executive of the Year Award — Joe Murley, Northeast Minor Hockey Association
Minor hockey association of the year — Paradise Minor Hockey Association
Minor Hockey Meritorious Awards — David Cheeks (Gander MHA), Curtis Butt, (Channel Port aux Basques MHA), Keith Fillier (Clarenville and Area MHA), Rick Delaney (Labrador West MHA), Tim Power (St. John’s MHA).
Ray Bowe Award of Merit — Eddie Russell (Bay Roberts)
Junior Hockey Meritorious Award — Kenny Williams (Southern Shore Breakers)
C.J. McCarthy Memorial Senior Award — Ivan Hapgood (Clarenville Caribous)
Female Hockey Promotion Award — Carolyn Yates (Botwood)
Joe Byrne Development Award — Rebecca Russell, (Clarenville and Area Minor Hockey Association)
Ron Healey Memorial Award — Ted Murphy (St. John’s)
President’s Award — Gerry Taylor (Mount Pearl) and Carolyn Yates (Botwood)
Minor Hockey Scholarship — Luke Fowlow (Bay D’Espoir MHA)
Jim Stirling / B.F. Lorenzetti Scholarship — Callie Langmead (Flatrock)
Wayne Mercer Memorial Scholarship — Andrew Bailey (St. John’s)