Watching some fast paced, hard-hitting Jr. B hockey action may once again be a reality in Windsor.
Negotiations are underway that may see the Valley Maple Leafs lace up to play several home games in town.
During council's regular monthly committee of the whole meeting in Windsor March 19, Mayor Paul Beazley directed staff to find a way to assure junior hockey teams have ice time scheduling priority.
“I feel compelled to make a motion supporting junior hockey in the Town of Windsor,” said Beazley, kick-starting the discussion.
“I feel it is incumbent upon this committee to make a recommendation or state its position on junior hockey and have it with absolute clarity so that when staff meets with the stakeholders, they know exactly what this committee is recommending to council,” said Beazley.
The mayor's motion stated that the committee wished to see the long tradition of junior hockey continue in Windsor, and directed staff to work out ice times so that the Friday night time slot traditionally used for junior hockey, (generally 7-10 p.m.) will be reserved for junior hockey, with first priority given to Jr. B, and second priority to Jr. C. If neither junior hockey teams enter into an agreement for Friday ice time with the town, that ice-time would then be made available for rental by other user groups. He further requested staff offer suitable practice time during the week be made available for use by Jr. B. If not required, Jr. C could claim the time, followed by any other user groups.
He also requested staff look into the costs associated with taking over the Hants Exhibition Arena a few weeks earlier to provide an extended season for hockey groups, and to examine if there is sufficient demand to offer such a longer season.
Groups vying for ice time at the local arena are scheduled to meet March 27 to discuss and negotiate ice time schedules.
Andy Woolaver, the Valley Maple Leafs' governor, the team's co-general managers David Hunter and Harry Ullock, as well as Greg Kelley, the president of the West Hants Minor Hockey Association, were present at the March 19 meeting.
As they are in process of booking next season's games now, Woolaver stressed the importance of knowing where they stand concerning ice time for games and practices.
“Speaking for our team and our league, we need to know that much sooner,” said Woolaver.
“Last year, we had no choice because of our arrival in the league. We had to take what we could get, but we saw the pitfalls of that this year in our operations,” he noted.
The Valley Maple Leafs played home games out of three rinks – Wolfville, Kentville, and Berwick – in their inaugural 2012-13 season.
“If it doesn't work here, we don't want to lose our opportunity to go somewhere else.” - Andy Woolaver
Due to league rules, the Valley Maple Leafs were not permitted to play any home games in the Town of Windsor while the Windsor Royals were taking a one-year hiatus. The society governing the Royals has since stated they have no intention of icing a team, which leaves the rink open for the Leafs to book.
At the committee of the whole meeting Feb. 12, when the topic of ice time first came up, the Royals executive indicated that they would like to maintain their ice time so that they may continue to donate it to various groups and organizations.
A representative from the Royals was not was available to attend the March 19 meeting, and Kelley doubled as a representative for Jr. C.
Woolaver said the team required more than an hour of practice time, which is what councillors were initially looking at.
“Blades on the ice needs to be more than an hour for it to be beneficial for us,” said Woolaver.
Woolaver said they do have other options, and can practice outside of town, but said Windsor would be a centralized location for the team. With ice times already at a premium throughout the region, Woolaver said they wouldn't want to wait more than a couple of weeks to get their schedule in order.
“If it doesn't work here, we don't want to lose our opportunity to go somewhere else,” said Woolaver, later adding, “Certainly, we can't wait another month. We just can't take the risk.”
At the Leafs awards banquet the following night, it was noted that the team hoped to play home games in Windsor and in the Valley.
During the committee meeting, Beazley stressed they had to provide direction now so that they could offer the Leafs ice time.
“With time lines looming, I feel that we have got to make a decision to make it absolutely clear as to who has first priority to that ice time on Friday night and that there will be a practice time somewhere along the way that is negotiated,” he said.
After much discussion, it was agreed to recommend to council that staff develop a policy that clearly outlines which teams take priority, that Jr. B be offered the old Royals time slot and accommodations be made to assure the team has enough practice time. It's anticipated that policy will be presented at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting.
Councillors were unanimous in supporting a policy be developed for the scheduling of ice time in Windsor.