Glory days have returned to senior hockey
League enjoying renaissance with NHL players
By LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun
Half a century ago, senior hockey was just as entertaining as the NHL's Original Six. Today, with 30 teams locked out, senior hockey is in vogue again.
The signings of San Jose Sharks' Todd Harvey and Nashville Predators' Scott Walker this week by the Cambridge Hornets has heightened the profile of leagues such as the six-team Ontario Hockey Association Senior, already awash in former pros.
Kent McDonnell of the Columbus Blue Jackets joined the Aylmer Blues, while the Dundas Real McCoys have also added some pro help. Other teams in the league are in Brantford, Petrolia and Tillsonburg.
Cambridge's roster already includes Gilbert Dionne, a Stanley Cup winner with the Canadiens and ex-Ranger/Oiler Steven Rice. Jamie Allison of the Preds is also skating with Cambridge. It gives the NHLers a place to play, while the senior teams improve their chances of winning the Allan Cup. Fans get to see decent hockey for about $10 a ticket.
"With the NHL out, we saw this as a one-shot deal that might never come around again," Hornets president Gord Chaplin said yesterday. "It's great hockey and it's not expensive."
INSURANCE AN ISSUE
As with the 4-on-4 Original Stars league, the biggest hurdle with signing NHLers was insurance.
"Without getting into too much detail, we're paying for the insurance month by month and if the lockout ends, the payments stop," Chaplin said.
Chaplin, who co-owns Canada General-Tower plastics in Cambridge, didn't argue that an Allan Cup arms race is developing.
As to lesser-known players being squeezed out by the NHLers, he said the Cambridge roster was already too crowded and this simplifies the cut-down process.
"The only question mark is the Canadian Hockey Association," Chaplin said. "They might decide these NHLers can't play in the Allan Cup after they play in the league playoffs. That's up for discussion for their meeting at the end of the month. But we (Hornets) said, 'to hell with it, we'll do what we have to do'. We have 35 player cards available to us, all of which we haven't used, and we have until Jan. 10 to name our team."