Coming off of what was one of the best Allan Cup tournaments in the last decade you would imagine its safe to say that senior hockey in Canada is in good hands.
With a pending tournament format change hanging in the air and Hamilton announced as the host city for next years tournament the future does look bright.
However, some troubling news out of the ACHW this past week is making things look precarious to say the least for western senior hockey.
The Rosetown Red Wings announced rather abruptly that they would not be icing a Senior AAA team for the upcoming season. They gave no reason why, they just flat out said they wouldn’t be back.
This certainly harms the league as its now down to Innisfail, Stony Plain & Lacombe. Last year after just seven games the Fort Saskatchewan Chiefs halted operations citing financial issues & lack of fan support.
For those of you who do not know, it costs roughly $100,000 per season to operate a team in the ACHW. Breaking that down you have 12 home games from a 24 game schedule to try and recuperate your finances. A difficult task for the most savvy owners out there.
So now with Rosetown out, Fort Sask out, the league is down to three teams. The Innisfail Eagles whom are the oldest senior hockey club in the province, the Stony Plain Eagles & the Lacombe Generals who’ve dominated the league for the last decade at minimum.
The Stony Plain Eagles operate partially due to a deal they have with the city & a collaboration of sponsors. I can only imagine how hard their sell job is now after losing two teams in six months.
Same for the Lacombe Generals who just finished hosting the Allan Cup. They have a good deal with the city & a ton of sponsors that help provide running costs.
At this present time I’m unaware how the Innisfail Eagles operate financially but I’m certain it’s in the same vein as the other two teams remaining.
With BC not having a senior AAA league, help won’t come from the furthest province west. In Alberta there hasn’t even been a mumble about any new franchises coming forward for next year.
At present there seems to be no solution in sight. None of these teams are financially stable enough to operate as a touring independent club and its doubtful they operate a three team league next season.
They could go dormant for the ACHW season and send players to the NCHL until its Allan Cup time and pull a team together again like the South East Prairie Thunder do in Manitoba each year. But that also leaves each city without senior hockey at all for the winter.
With all of that said, this could certainly could spell the end of the ACHW which has been in operation since 1955 and has seen 51 teams come and go over its 64 year history in Alberta.
Over the last few years senior hockey seems to be falling off the tracks. The east coast once was a hot bed for the game is down to one league, in Ontario the legendary Brantford Blast had to be sold and were inactive this year because of financial restraints.
In Quebec there really isn’t any proper senior hockey to be mentioned. Essentially they have the LNAH which is considered minor pro.
Manitoba has three senior AAA teams now in South East, Ste Anne & Norway House but nothing has been made official in regards to a league although speculation has been made that Winnipeg could end up icing a senior hockey team under the Winnipeg Victorias name.
Saskatchewan has a ton of senior hockey, its everywhere but all at the AA or Single A level. I imagine that the Rosetown Red Wings will be a AA franchise next year and apply to be AAA when the Allan Cup tournament comes around for 2019/20.
With that being said, did we just see the last Allan Cup tournament with western representatives? Maybe. Maybe not.