The vice-president and general manager of the new Sackville Storm says plans are in place to have the team call Sackville home for the coming season.
The vice-president and general manager of a recently formed junior hockey team slated to use the Tantramar Veterans Memorial Civic Centre as its home base says his group has obtained sufficient backing, has received total support from all parts of the community and is now in the process of recruiting players and a coach so all will be ready to open training camp in September.
Kevin Phinney says arrangements have been completed to compete in the New Brunswick Junior B Hockey League this coming season. Other teams will be Moncton, Cap Pele, Cocagne, Miramichi, Sunny Corner, Hampton, Saint John, Hartland and two teams from Fredericton.
Phinney says home games will be played on Fridays while the team will stage one 90-minute practice a week as they skate through a 30-game schedule.
Last season Phinney coached the Amherst Junior C Colts to a 21-7 record before they got knocked out of the playoffs. He had worked with the Colts for the previous three seasons and earlier served as an assistant coach with the Lady Mounties under coaches Jack Drover and Zach Ball.
But he does not plan to work behind the bench this time and says he is in the process of interviewing prospective coaches for the job.
Asked where the team would be drawing its playing personnel from, Phinney said “everywhere”. He said any local boys 20 years of age or under will be given every opportunity but that even his own son will be watching from the stands if he isn’t able make it at the B level. He has been with the Amherst team in the past.
Phinney come up through the Sackville minor hockey ranks and is in love with the game as demonstrated by his commitment to programs in Amherst in the absence of one in Sackville.
Back to players for the team, he said he will no doubt be looking on the Mount Allison campus for talent but will be looking across Atlantic Canada for the type of players of this calibre. This could mean finding billets for a few. He hopes to work out an affiliation with Dieppe Commandos of the Maritime Junior League whereby any late cuts from that team would be assigned to Sackville. He also noted he had had a discussion with a player in Calgary so on this basis Sackville could have a diverse lineup of talent.
Some highly successful teams have operated in Sackville over the past 60 or so years. First there was the Sackville Eagles assembled in 1952 taking the calibre of play to a new level. Starting with strictly local talent officials opted to recruit seven players from Moncton and the team went to the Central League championship and to the provincial finals. Later, in 1959, the Combines were formed and actually brought home an N.B. championship before falling to the Summerside Aces in an attempted march to a Maritime crown. Thirteen years later the Combines, under the leadership of Calvin Hicks, brought home the first intermediate championship. In both instances a handful of players from outside Sackville were brought in to provide balance.
It is recalled the Eagles got off the ground with $400 in the bank and ended with a profit after a three game playoff with Memramcook that saw more than 6,000 fans pack into Allison Gardens.
Phinney declined to name sponsors for the Storm nor the amount of the budget. However, since it required $43,000 to fund the Tantramar men’s team during the past season it would seem fair to assume the one for the Storm would, conservatively, reach $100,000. The cost of ice rental and travel have gone through the roof in the past 25 years and it is no longer possible to operate a franchise on a shoe string.
Definitely, a local tenant is needed by the civic centre. The Mount A women and the two Titan programs along with minor hockey have been the prime users of the ice surface and perhaps Sackville and area fans are waiting – perhaps even starving – for a team of their own. We at The Write Call certainly hope the Storm will prove to be a major attraction and that we will see the stands filled to capacity for each of the proposed 15 home games.
Phinney told your columnist during a recent discussion that he had been approached last Christmas by a local businessman who suggested the Amherst franchise be moved to Sackville. He said the same individual approached him again at the conclusion of the past hockey season and things have grown from there.
He stressed during our talk that the backing is in place and that a team will be on the ice this fall – one that will “more than hold its own.” Phinney said it is his intention to ensure that Moncton, the perennial winners, will be knocked off their perch on the top limb.
And he points out that the Storm will fill a void during the winter months in that it will provide an opportunity for hockey-starved fans to finally have a team of their own to cheer for. And he pointed out that there is no place in Sackville for young men to play after completing their midge or high school careers until they become old enough to participate in the senior leagues.
“What we are planning will be more than a game,” he says, “it will be an event. He says plans are already underway to have the team members do a lot of charity work in the community and to make a contribution on a number of fronts.
“We are set to go,” concluded the local sparkplug, “and we will be ready to take on challenges when the first whistle blows.”