To the Pontiac Juniors supporters and fans listen – the upcoming 2014-2015 Season may very well be the end of Junior B Hockey in Shawville. The team doesn’t want to go quietly into the night and their fate will rest in YOUR hands.
Team President Ryan Barber has been with the Juniors for three seasons, and this year there is a challenge forming between the Pontiac Juniors and the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League (EOJHL).
Ryan and the Shawville team are on a mission of raising awareness, because plans are in the works where the EOJHL will no longer exist in the 2015-2016 Season. This is a league where the Pontiac Juniors have been a part of it for 29 years. This is a league that has been around since 1966 and is one of the biggest in Canada.
“There are 22 teams. Our conference is made up of 11 teams,” says Ryan. “Nine of them are Ontario-based along with the Shawville and the Gatineau teams.”
The commissioner of the conference has presented the idea of creating a new league, except Gatineau and Shawville will not be involved because of the geography. The concept is to align the EOJHL teams with the Central Canadian Hockey League Tier 1 League, which is Junior A Hockey.
“The Junior B teams would be directly affiliated with Junior A. Just like Ottawa Senators have the Binghamton Senators, so the Pembroke Lumberkings would have the Renfrew Timberwolves as their farm team,” says Ryan, where teams on the ‘farm’ level could groom players to play Junior A.
This new league would also increase fees significantly for players. “Junior A hockey will have everything to gain and we have everything to lose.”
At this point, presentations, meetings and letters have been initiated by the league and the Juniors.There have also been conversations with Hockey Quebec, Hockey Outaouais and even the ideas tossed around of talking to Hockey Canada and playing at the Junior C Level, as other areas to explore. The Pontiac Juniors find it necessary to consider the next potential step and that is filing a lawsuit.
Ryan notes the team pays the commissioner’s salary along with the others in the conference. Is the commissioner fairly representing all the teams that pay him to do his job?
“We’ll try to raise an initial $10,000 to start for a lawsuit that could take a year or two with no better chance than 50/50 of working. $10,000 is a small price to pay to have the opportunity to save our hockey team. We need to look at the bigger picture too. We have a rink that needs the income and a town that needs a team; employees at the rink that need the jobs, a canteen…it’s all business. It is going to affect more than if it is just the team that is gone.”
“We need to reach some people, get people thinking, spread the word, have a fundraising idea to help generate income for the team,” continues Ryan.
Ryan intends that any money raised will be documented because the funds will be separate from the regular fundraising effort for the local Juniors. If nothing happens or plans change, the money towards the lawsuit would be refunded. All of this will have to be decided, sooner than later.
The team is opened minded to all feedback from the public “If people decide it’s not worth the challenge or the money, that’s ok,” says Ryan. “Shawville will continue on and finish out the hockey season. At the end, I will walk away with a clear conscience that we offered to try because we can’t be kicked out of the league after 29 years.”
What’s your say? The home team wants your input as you can send e-mails to President Ryan Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org or Team GM/Coach, Chris Byrne at email@example.com. People can also give their thoughts during the Team Town Meeting on August 14 at the Shawville Lions Hall. The start time is 7p.m.
By: Scott Campbell