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Dropping numbers a concern for Corner Brook Men's Broomball League executive

Investors Group's Johnny Pelley, left, moves toward the ball while being watched by Western Building Products' Paul Prosper during Game 2 of the Corner Brook Molson Men's Broomball League best-of-five final at the Corner Brook Civic Centre in this March 26 file photo.
Investors Group's Johnny Pelley, left, moves toward the ball while being watched by Western Building Products' Paul Prosper during Game 2 of the Corner Brook Molson Men's Broomball League best-of-five final at the Corner Brook Civic Centre in this March 26 file photo. - Star file photo

It’s a sport with a fairly rich history in Corner Brook, but one that’s seeing more and more empty space on the benches of its respective local men’s league teams.

The Corner Broom Molson Men’s Broomball League is slated to hold its annual player draft 8:30 p.m. tonight, with the idea of having the regular season begin on Monday evening at the Corner Brook Civic Centre.

But according to league secretary Chris Walters, the league is down about a half-dozen players from last season, which, when combined with the already sparse numbers showing up for some teams on game night, would likely prove lethal for one of the league’s four squads.

A reduction from four to three teams would be an especially painful blow because it might see the league forced to give up one of its two prime-time hours between 8:30 and 10:30 at the civic centre on Monday nights.

Ice time in this city can be a valuable commodity and, once it’s gone, it’s probably not coming back.

Walters said it’s a case of some older players stepping away from the sport, and some younger people who got into it moving away. Even replacing the five or six who left would likely be enough to make do.

“But we’re just failing to attract people to the sport and we really can’t figure out why,” he said. “We’re scratching our heads.”

Especially confusing, Walters said, is the majority of the time someone comes in to give it a try, they walk away with a newfound love of the game.

“They say, ‘Wow, this is great, why didn’t I try this earlier?’”

He said the league is perfect for recreational hockey players looking for a competitive sport to play on an off night, or for soccer players or ball hockey players who would like to get a run in during the winter months.

“This is an ideal fit,” he said.

The local broomball association has already lost its 7:30 p.m. slot on Monday nights that used to be afforded to a junior developmental program and a women’s program because the numbers just weren’t there to justify it.

For a sport looking to expand its footprint, the lack of a feeder system is especially detrimental.

Walters had tried to revitalize the junior program three years ago. It’s actually how he returned to the game after several years away — “I realized how much I missed it” — but he said it was too far gone by then, with only a handful of hopefuls stepping out on the ice.

He said he wouldn’t even attempt to start another junior program unless he had 20-30 people committed. And even then, he has no idea where he’d recoup that hour of ice time that was lost.

“If there are only four or five people that want to try it, I’d say to come join the men’s league,” he said. “We’re more than willing to bring new players in and give them time and space to learn the game.”

The league has seen players as young as 16 or 17 years old come aboard, though Walters admits that may be a little young unless they’re strong enough to hold their own.

But for those who are, or for anyone else interested in giving the sport a try, the league executive would need to hear from them before draft time tonight, either via text to Walters at 709-640-6077 or by posting on the wall of Corner Brook Broomball on Facebook.

“I think anybody who is competitive in nature would fit the bill and would like the game,” said Walters.

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