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GMHL raising questions about competing clubs in small town Ontario

March 28, 2013   ·   0 Comments

It is a rare event when a small town in Ontario has two Junior level hockey clubs – and for good reason.

While some of the larger centres do manage to host two, sometimes three Junior hockey teams in different leagues, smaller towns rely on local sponsorship dollars and gate fees to keep afloat, and that money is limited – especially in a town the size of Alliston.

The Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League (GMHL) is expanding with three new teams already signed for the 2013 / 2014 season to add to the current 15 team league, including a franchise that will call Alliston home.

The new teams include the Toronto Predators, a new, as yet unnamed team, in Seguin Township, and locally, the Alliston Coyotes. The GMHL already has teams in nearby Shelburne and Orangeville.

With the Alliston Junior C Hornets already well established as the local Junior level team, the arrival of a new squad of Junior players has local fans wondering what this new team is all about.

“Initially we were a little shocked that the town would recruit these guys,” Said Hornets club president Ken Cowen. “We are a community sponsored team. If we lose sponsors to these guys it will cost us.”

The fact that the GMHL is not affiliated with or sanctioned by Hockey Canada means the League has no responsibility to abide by any rules – including those governing player recruitment or where they can establish a team – as decreed by Hockey Canada.

After all, there is no law against starting your own hockey league.

The GMHL got its start with a seven team line-up in 2006 and has been expanding ever since.

As far as the Town is concerned, it’s a business decision. It’s the Town’s responsibility to generate revenue through renting the facilities at the Rec Centre including ice time and all other amenities such as conference rooms, the field house, and the Hornets Next restaurant.

Sports leagues are a separate issue and the Town, while supportive of sports in the area, has no obligation to try to limit new leagues or teams from entering the area to avoid competition.

Since the GMHL has established pretty much all of its teams, with the exception of Toronto, in small centres around Ontario, there’s little doubt that the exceptional hockey facilities in Alliston was a major drawing point.

The GMHL has been the subject of considerable controversy over the past few years due to its recruitment of foreign players and ‘pay to play’ policy.

But as League president Bob Russell pointed out, “We pay for that ice rental,” when asked about foreign players skating at local arenas.

The Hornets are a very popular local club with six consecutive Georgian Mid Ontario Hockey championships and two provincial titles behind them.

They are currently in the provincial playoffs looking for another shot at an Ontario title.

“I think we have loyal fans that will stick with us,” Cowen said. “We have a good team and good fan support. We have a nucleus of local players on our team.”

The introduction of the Coyotes in the Fall of 2013 will certainly provide some initial curiosity as most of the players will apparently be coming from Eastern Europe.

With two Junior level clubs in town, hockey fans will have a choice – but it’s not that they have to choose one over the other.

The Hornets are a top-notch Junior C club with exceptional players and management and it’s not likely their fan base will be easily swayed by a new team in town.

By Brian Lockhart

 

 

         


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