St. Stephen – It has been well over a decade since senior hockey has touched down in Charlotte County and Southern New Brunswick.
That very well may be about to change.
Based on initial conversations, the Southern Senior Hockey League (SSHL) could very well start up in January, 2021 with four franchises indicating a willingness to operate. A start date is dependent on the removal of the no gatherings and no sporting events portion of the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Act.
Geoff Cunningham, manager of the Original Six Men’s league in Charlotte County and is a past coach and general manager of the Blacks Harbour SilverKings of the defunct Southern New Brunswick Senior A Hockey League (SNBSHL) would operate a franchise out of the Garcelon Civic Center in St. Stephen.
Along with the Charlotte County club there would be two teams from Greater Saint John, and one based out of Grand Bay-Westfield.
The franchises have been collaborating with former SNBSHL general manager, Stephen Evans, who operated the River Valley Rock in the early 2000s and Brand Janes who was a former president of the SNBSHL. These two will act as the foundation of the league executive for the new league.
The SSHL would need the blessing of Hockey New Brunswick, but Cunningham said the group is working diligently behind the scenes to offer a formal presentation to the sport’s governing body in June.
“After countless emails, phone calls, and texts, we believe we have a winning formula to create and maintain the Southern Senior Hockey League,” said Cunningham.
“We are going with local players to avoid imports that drive operational costs. We want a small schedule, somewhere between 12 and 16 games that would be primarily on Saturday nights.”
Cunningham said a four-team league would also attempt to avoid two games on the same night to allow fans of the senior brand of hockey not to miss an outing.
The league would look at using the Garcelon Civic Center and Saint John’s Lord Beaverbrook Rink as the hub arenas.
It also has a revenue sharing plan.
“We believe revenue sharing is the right approach and one that will allow the league to continue toward a strong direction,” said Evans.
“The league would oversee revenue and expenses for all teams. Collectively, all the teams would share the costs involved. It’s the best way to operate. We want sustainability and longevity to create a place for players who want to play at a higher level an opportunity to do so.”
Players who would skate in the SSHL are still eligible to play in their local recreational leagues.
“The condensed schedule is strategic as to not impact the local recreational leagues both in Charlotte County and Greater Saint John,” said Evans.
“It’s been amazing how fast this has come together,” said Cunningham. “There are still a couple of hurdles to jump, but it certainly appears senior hockey is on the way to returning to Southern New Brunswick. We want to do this right. There is absolutely no question the interest is there.
“Within a week, we have received three 20-man rosters from Saint John, who are all local players. We have a full list of players Charlotte County. We’re excited about moving forward.”
Cunningham said the rosters appear even on paper, based on the personnel he’s seen from the submissions.
“There is a ton of talent throughout all four clubs and that’s great news because it’s imperative that we have parity amongst the teams,” he said.
“The players are there, the facilities are there, league management is there. Now we just need to build our fan base. I’m confident that will happen with our local product of players and brand of hockey.”