TIGNISH – One of the most recognizable team names in P.E.I. senior hockey history will be missing from the program when the West Prince Senior Hockey League kicks off its third season Saturday night.
League president Ghislain Bernard said he received notification on Christmas Day that the Tignish Aces will not be icing a team. Organizers, he said, could only round up about 10 players.
As with its first two seasons, the league was looking to get its season started between Christmas and New Year’s, but was holding back on putting a schedule in place as long as possible to give Tignish time to get a team together.
The season gets going on Saturday in Abram-Village, with the Wellington Arsenault Bros. Construction Flyers hosting the O’Leary Evangeline Central Credit Union (ECCU) Maroons in a 7:30 pm contest. The Alberton Regals and Tyne Valley Tornadoes round out this-season’s four-team league.
The league operated with four teams in its inaugural season, and increased to five teams last season when Tyne Valley joined.
Each team will play four home and four away games during the abbreviated regular season. The entire schedule hasn’t been finalized, but Bernard was able to provide the schedule for each team’s first home game.
Wellington will be in Tyne Valley for a 7:45 p.m. game against the Tornadoes on Jan 4, the Maroons will host the Regals on Jan. 5 at 8 p.m., and the Regals will play their first home game against the Tornadoes on Jan. 9 at 8:15 p.m.
Playoff details are also being finalized, but all four teams will be advancing to a post-season, which Bernard said is likely to get going by late February.
“We hope to have the same fan support that we had in the past,” said Bernard, pointing out the league, and good attendance, is important for the local arenas.
He knows the interest is already there.
“I can’t go to the Co-op – and that starts in October – without somebody asking me, ‘When is the league starting?,’” he offered.
Bernard said there are about a half-dozen Aces still interested in playing senior hockey this winter. He said the remaining teams are having online discussions on how those players might be distributed.
While Bernard said the league doesn’t appear interested in expanding its boundaries to include teams from outside of West Prince, he suggested other regions are certainly welcome to imitate what West Prince has established, such as forming an East Prince senior league. He said additional leagues could lead to future possibilities, such as an all-star showdown.
As for the West Prince Senior Hockey League itself, Bernard said teams are content with showcasing homegrown talent.