It wasn't the 50th anniversary celebration London's scouts' hockey league expected. Instead of celebrations and a promise of many more years to come, the focus will be on its death.
Not that there will be a lot of people to grieve.
"This past year we had only eight players," said George Dow, president of the league. "You just can't meet the ice rental and make it a reasonable price per kid. There was no league. The kids basically played shinny. I can't see it existing past this year."
It's a far cry from the glory days of the scouts hockey league. It was established in 1955-56 and, at its zenith, there were more than 40 teams playing. The league operated at Silverwood Arena and was based on scouting principles, including participation and sportsmanship.
"It's a niche market and there are very few kids interested in playing that aren't playing in other leagues," Dow said. "Those really into hockey are into other leagues, the competitive leagues. Those interested in just recreational hockey . . . well, the numbers just aren't there."
Bill McKenzie has been a coach or referee with the league since the 1970s.
"This breaks my heart. But you could see it coming over the last five years. I had a scout troop of 44 people. We could only dress 15 players. Now we can't find 15 players for the league. I went to my old scout troop and they have 30 members. Only one plays hockey. I have a grandchild who plays hockey. I would really like him to get involved . . . but he plays on two teams and doesn't have time."
McKenzie believes it isn't just a lack of interest in hockey but in the scout movement in general.
"I see the numbers dwindling, the lack of interest in scouting. Maybe too many women and husbands are working and they don't have enough time to get involved," said McKenzie. "Maybe it's scouting quite frankly that hasn't kept up with what youngsters want to do. Maybe it's the marketing program of Scouts Canada as well."
The league operated for 24 weeks with one hour of ice time each Saturday. The cost was $170 for the season.
"It was a good league," Dow said. "It was all based on sportsmanship. The last two years, we haven't been able to run teams because there's not enough players to divvy up. But when we ran teams, we had a three-goal limit. When one player scored three goals, he had to help his teammates score. There was no body contact, no slapshots. It was all about participating. Twice a year, we get coaches together to see about trades if the teams weren't quite balanced."
League organizers tried dropping the age limit to include cubs. They ran ads and handed out brochures. But competition from minor hockey and other distractions youth face were too much.
"We've had some help from service clubs and other groups with generous donations to help with ice time," Dow said. "You can only expect help from others for so long. Five years ago, the city revamped their ice usage. They set a minimum number of people per hour for youth hockey ice usage. The city hasn't complained to us about it yet. But we'll definitely be hearing from them."
Dow expects the league to be formally buried at the next meeting of the local scouts' executive board.
"I'm very sad about it. It's upsetting," Dow said. "But with the overall numbers dropping in scouting, we've seen it (coming) for the last five years."