The Ship Has Sunk -The Metro Shipbuilders

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Last week I was fortunate enough to come home a few days earlier than expected to spend time with family and friends over the Christmas break. With the additional time I traveled to Amherst to see my former junior team the Ramblers play against the Metro Shipbuilders. After watching a 6-0 drubbing it became clear to me that it is time for a change within this organization. I have to be careful when I write this and acknowledge a few points before I begin, I was a former Halifax Lion which is now the Metro franchise and I given a great opportunity and I am certainly grateful for that. I would also say that my coaching in Metro was excellent with Troy Ryan and Tyler Naugler before that, both of whom are now in the AUS coaching ranks. Bob Macisaac and Stan Hennigar are two people who have tremendous knowledge for the game, and are two people I have great respect for. "Breaker" the trainer who has been with the team for over 40 years was also one of the best in terms of getting things done. Also I know David MacDonald's passion to make things work in Metro is enviable and second to none. However when we look at the facts its time for this organization to have a fresh start outside of Halifax region.Halifax has a strong tradition in Jr. A hockey. During the 70's and 80's the area had 3 teams the Halifax Lions, the Cole Harbour Colts and the Dartmouth Fuel Kids. When the Mooseheads came to town in 1994-1995 season they became the number 1 ticket in town. That's not to say Jr. A hasn't had its successes in Halifax, the Oland Exports won a National title in 2002 on home ice, Halifax also competed at various National Championships before that. When we look at the hockey landscape today the market is different, there are so many hockey options in Metro. Major Junior, AUS, Major Midget, High School Jr. B not to mention many more entertainment options outside of hockey. When Metro moved from Antigonish in 2008 there was a 5 year business plan that was submitted to the league for approval. After this season the five year plan ends, and the way I see it the league along with the organization should be looking to alternative markets.The last five seasons split between the Halifax Forum and the Dartmouth Sportsplex the team has drawn the following number of attendance on average; 285, 473, 441, 268, 258. These numbers may or may not include free tickets or  may be inflated. From a numbers perspective there is not much fan support. The team has also struggled financially and have openly asked their players to pay in an effort to cover costs associated with playing a season. The way I see it why not move this team to a part of the province that will embrace Jr. A hockey? An argument has long been made that by having a Jr. A team in Halifax give's the MHL media exposure to the largest city in Atlantic Canada. However from the surface I can't find much media that talks about the MHL in any way. Weekend results are summed up in the smallest possible writeup in the Chronicle Herald, articles are rarely run concerning Jr. A hockey or the Metro franchise, but why should they be? Jr.A hockey in Metro is irrelevant to the majority of the population. In fact perhaps the league is receiving negative media from having the majority of  its articles published by the Chronicle Herald discussing low attendance, troublesome financials or asking their players to pay. I am a firm believer that if Metro was to move it would not affect their and media in much way at all.Another factor that has made life harder for Jr. A hockey in Metro is the revival of the Halifax Mooseheads. What I would call the "dark days" of the Moosehead's organization would be when they finished dead last in the Q back to back seasons. Now that the Mooseheads have returned to their former glory on the ice, and at the box office, it creates an even tougher job to bring people to the Dartmouth Sportsplex. Also in looking at the possibility Jr. A had to capture an audience during the down years of the Mooseheads, there was no significant gain in attendance, or support.So one may ask where can they move? Well I am certainly not fully aware of support in each community, or the ambition the following places have to bring Jr. A hockey to their area, but here are some logical choices in my mind.1. The Valley (Berwick, Kentville) By saying the Valley it is quite vague however areas around Acadia are very busy commercially. New Minas has seen tremendous growth, with Kentville and Berwick both close by the population and financial support from businesses should certainly be there. Berwick has a brand new facility that would be an ideal size for Jr. A, and with the success of the Major Midget team players who would want to stay local and play could be abundant. For players going to school Acadia being close by is also a benefit. The MHL could then have 3 teams also relatively close with Yarmouth, Bridgewater and "Valley". The downfalls are Acadia Axeman hockey is deeply entrenched in the community. High school hockey is also quite popular and could be difficult to get into the market and Jr. B would have to go as there is not enough room for both Jr. A and Jr. B. 2. North Sydney From my knowledge the community has been pursuing to have a Jr. A team play out of their new facility. There is a major junior team with the Screaming Eagles although their attendance is down. High school hockey is also very popular in this area however with the town being so ambitious and a smart marketing plan in place it could be viable. The only downfall for the league would be travel as the nearest team would be over 3 hours away in Pictou County. 3. East Hants The MHL could consider going back to a market that it has already been in. East Hants had a team for a short time when they moved from Cole Harbour and eventually became the Dartmouth DQ Dairy Blizzards. The area has grown significantly in the last 10-15 years and has a new facility with two ice surfaces. East Hants also has a Jr. B team, however with the city being so close, hockey and entertainment options a mere 30 minutes away. Even with significant marketing I am not sure East Hants would be entirely ready or willing.4. Edmundston The last option I'll suggest would require a re-arrangement of the divisions so that the Meek would have 6 teams and the Bent 5. The reason I think Edmundston would be a good fit is its size and location. The city has a population of roughly 21,000 and is in Northern New Brunswick. It is a bilingual city in both French and English which could be ideal for drawing french speaking players to the MHL. Also with Grand Falls within driving distance the team could draw from that region as well. There is no major hockey in town and I think the potential for tremendous crowd support. Travel would be significant but with backing from the community financially and strong attendance it would not be impossible to overcome. In my mind it might be the most viable market the MHL has not been able to crack. Perhaps its been attempted and the city does not want it, I am not sure.In closing I do not have all the solutions or decision power of where Metro should move to. However I am firm believer that its time for the Shipbuilders to find a new home where a community will embrace Jr. A hockey and give the league another stable franchise. I see it as no fault to the current management of the Metro franchise, I merely see it as a situation that is not workable for the MHL or an organization trying to make it work in Halifax. 

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