SPRINGHILL – It was a tough year for the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League’s Cumberland County Blues.
“When you have some success over the last couple of years it’s a tough pill to swallow to be struggling near the bottom of the league,” said Blues coach Dave Hyatt.
The Blues finished the regular season with a record of 11-19-0-2-2, and went 4-0 to the Port Hawkesbury Strait Pirates in the Sid Rowe Division playoff semi-final.
Blues had low fan turnout compared to previous years.
“That goes hand in hand with winning and losing. Everybody loves to support a winner.” said Hyatt. “There’s a core of about 200 fans who live and die with the Blues, so it’s pretty impressive to have a core like that that supports you no matter what.”
Recruiting players was also an issue this year.
“A lot of kids who come out of our midget program that might be eligible to play go away to school,” said Hyatt. “A lot of kids who played on the team came from away. They traveled from Halifax or Moncton or whatever. I know Ronnie (general manager Ron Reynolds) put the roster together as best he could but sometimes it’s tough when you don’t have everybody right in town for the community to get to know the kids.”
“With Southern New Brunswick having a Junior B League it takes away some of the areas you can draw from,” said Reynolds. “We’re hoping that with the Nova Scotia Community College and Mount A that more players will go that route and we can get more players.”
The Blues have built a reputation for success and Reynolds said they’ll need to get back to basics to achieve that success again.
“If you look at the junior league, except for Woodstock in the Junior A league, we’ve probably been the most successful junior team in Atlantic Canada,” said Reynolds.
The Blues have been at or near the top of the league standings since rejoining the league in the 2004-2005 season, climbing to the top of the league by winning the Nova Scotia championship in 2009, and winning the Atlantic championship in 2010.
Many of the same volunteers have been there since day one.
“It takes a lot of work and much of the work has been done by a dedicated bunch of individuals who have tried their best but we need more hands to really help out and jump on board,” said Reynolds. “We need more volunteers trying to generate interest because the people who’ve been involved aren’t getting any younger, and there’s been a few who’ve had some health issues the last couple years and they haven’t been able to put in the 100 per cent effort that they usually do.”
“We hope more people jump on board and keep this thing going because it’s good for the community.”
Reynolds said the team has gotten away from being more visible in the community.
“We have to look into maybe billeting more players because trying to go without the billets and having kids travel in isn’t feasible anymore with the price of gas,” said Reynolds.
“We also have to start promoting the team a little more to get the fan base back up,” he added. “We have to go out and get more involved in the community, which we’ve kind of gotten away from the last three years. We have our core of 200 and 300 fans but to compete at our level and be successful we need to get up to the 500 fans-a-game level again.”
The Blues hold their annual awards banquet tonight at the Dr. Carson & Marion Murray Community Centre in Springhill.