The Amherst Ramblers won't be hosting the 2016 Fred Page Cup. The club's bid, as well as Summerside's, lost out to Woodstock.
AMHERST – For the second time in three years the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers have been unsuccessful in their bid to host the Fred Page Cup.
The Maritime Junior Hockey League awarded the 2016 eastern Canadian Junior A hockey championship tournament to the Woodstock Slammers following bid presentations on Saturday in Amherst and a conference call among the four-person selection committee on Tuesday night.
“I want to congratulate the Woodstock Slammers on being awarded the tournament. They are a quality organization and I know they will do a good job in hosting the Fred Page Cub,” Ramblers’ club president Jim Henwood said. “But I’m still disappointed that once again the Amherst Ramblers have been let down by this league. I’m disappointed for people like Keith (Blenkhorn) and Walter (Maltby), who’ll probably never get another shot at this, I’m disappointed for our new coach, our players, our sponsors, the town and the county.”
The Summerside Western Capitals also bid for the right to host the tournament.
Amherst had bid for the 2013 Fred Page Cup three years ago, but lost the bid to the Truro Bearcats. Henwood understood the decision then because it was an opportunity for the Bearcats to showcase the new Rath-Eastlink Community Centre.
Not getting it then, Henwood said he was led to believe by the league that Amherst would stand a very good chance of hosting it this time. He said something changed in the last few weeks and he left the bid meeting on Saturday with a bad feeling that about his team's chances.
“I could see how they wanted to showcase Truro last time, but I was led to believe that this year if we submitted a bid we would stand a very good chance of winning,” said Henwood, adding he doesn’t like how things played out. “Within the last couple of weeks I was getting vibes that things had changed a bit.”
League president Derryl Smith said all three bids were top quality, but at the end of the day the selection committee felt Woodstock’s was the best.
“We had three quality bids from three quality organizations,” Smith said early Thursday. “At the end of the day, the selection committee went through the bids and decided that Woodstock’s had the most merit. The league would have been proud to have had either of the three organizations hosting the Fred Page Cup.”
Smith said both Truro and Amherst had great bids in 2011, but he said the league didn’t award the tournament to Truro because of the new arena.
“You have to understand at that time the Ramblers were in a state of flux. There had been a player walkout and there were some concerns among the committee about the situation there,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, there were two bids and Truro won out.”
Henwood said it will be the last time the Ramblers bid for the tournament.
”As long as I’m involved we will not be bidding again for this tournament. We’ve been insulted. We have a lot of good people who put a tremendous effort into this and we got shot down again,” he said.
Henwood said the team gave a solid presentation with Warden Keith Hunter and Mayor Robert Small, who both said they’d taken out a bond to support any potential loss, while coach Josh Hepditch also gave a great presentation.
“There’s a whole bunch of things that bug me about this. We put everything into this hockey team we could. We brought a young coach in here. He cleaned out our 20-year-olds because he was led to believe by me that we were going to host the Fred Page Cup. He’s certainly had the wind taken out of his sails,” Henwood said.
“I don’t think it’s fair. It seems every time we turn around this team in Amherst gets kicked by the league or put down. Frankly, I’m tired of it.”
Henwood said he could fight the decision, but he doesn’t want to take anything away from the Woodstock franchise. He said they won the right to host the tournament. He doesn’t like it, but he doesn’t want to fight the Slammers’ organization.
“My problem is with the league and the way it’s being run. We have the best junior hockey league in Canada, but it’s not being run properly,” Henwood said. “If it was being run properly the Fred Page Cup would be spread out and a team like the Ramblers, the oldest franchise in the league, would be allowed to host this event. There seems to be an excuse every time we put a bid in and it’s hardly even worthwhile talking about it. I feel like throwing my hands up and saying ‘take our league fees at the beginning of the year and just leave us alone.’”
Smith said he’s disappointed with Henwood’s comments adding at no time did the league promise or commit to giving the tournament to the Ramblers. He said the bidding process is there for a reason and that all three organizations were given the opportunity to apply to host the event and to appear before the selection committee to make their case.
“I don’t agree with his comments because they sort of reflect on myself as president. My job is to represent and look after the league and all its teams,” Smith said. “I will be having a talk with Jim to discuss his comments and his concerns.”