ST. STEPHEN – Senior hockey is making its way back to the Garcelon Civic Center.
The Southern Senior Hockey League is focused on bringing Senior hockey back to Southern New Brunswick in a way that ensures both league survival and focuses on local players in the local communities. The Game Time Irishman will represent Charlotte County.
Steve Evans is the former general manager of the River Valley Rock South Senior A Hockey League and the Southern Senior Hockey League’s president. He says those involved in the leagues before, as well as players in the community, are all looking forward to the new league.
“Many of us have watched the cycles of senior hockey fall by the wayside with imported players driving up the cost to operate, but we wanted to be innovative and produce a brand of hockey that is a higher-level, but still community based,” he said. “We will keep a minimum schedule and try to become viable in the first year of operations. A lot of young players who haven’t been around the senior level are pretty excited.”
There are four teams in this inaugural season including the Irishmen; The River Valley Rock playing out of Grand Bay-Westfield; Casey’s Canucks playing out of Quispamsis; and the Saint John based Flames.
Locally, the Game Time Irishmen representing Charlotte County are sponsored by the recently renovated Game Time Sports Bar in St. Stephen and local businessman Greg Hooper. Geoff Cunningham, coach and manager of the team, has been an integral part of getting this league off the ground and building the Charlotte County team.
“It’s been almost 10 years since there has been local men’s senior hockey in our county,” said Cunningham. “We believe we have come up with a model to operate a true local men’s senior hockey league for the long term. All four clubs in the league are operating on revenue sharing. Gates and facilities are shared throughout. These four clubs are acting like one. This means the Garcelon Civic Center and Charlotte County are about to have something very special.”
When it came to naming the Charlotte County team, Cunningham wanted to pick something that represented the area.
“There is a long tradition of senior hockey and the love for that brand and style of game is something you need to see whether it’s been in St. Stephen, Black’s Harbour or St. Andrews and we wanted to bring all of that Charlotte County passion together under one name,” said Cunningham. “We wanted a name that would reflect our organization, our players and the fans from our region. I started doing some homework and found out pretty quickly how prevalent the Irish background is in Charlotte County. The light just went on from there.”
The new league’s schedule is available on their website, www.southerseniorhockeyleague.ca, with most games taking place Friday and Saturday nights. The league is also offering a Flex Pass, which is good for 10 entries into any regular season game. The price range goes from $75 for adults, $65 for students and seniors. Regular game tickets are $5 for children 12 and under, $8 for students and seniors, and $10 for adults.
The season opener will take place at the Garcelon Civic Center on Saturday, Nov. 13. Warm-ups start at 7p.m., with the puck dropping at 7:30 p.m.