Four-on-four exhibition hockey is about to go six-feet under.
Randy Gumbley, president of the Original Stars Hockey League, says he's on the verge of folding the four-on-four barnstormers, at least for 2004 and possibly for good.
"My drop-dead date to get enough players (for a proposed December tour of Western Canada) is Nov. 15 and it's coming up quick," Gumbley said last night. "That's when I have to tell the arena people in places such as Saskatoon, Red Deer, Winnipeg and Brandon whether we can do it.
"Without getting 40-odd players to go (he has about half), it's not going to be financially viable. We're relying on players to recruit other players. There's always hope, I guess, but it doesn't look great right now."
Gumbley has already taken significant personal losses after a series of dates in Southern Ontario and Atlantic Canada did not draw the anticipated interest. Noble ideas, such as devoting some proceeds to the family of Lieut. Chris Saunders, the victim of the fire in the submarine Chicoutimi were hampered by high travel expenses and other costs.
"There are bills still to be paid and I'm not interested in digging myself a hole any deeper," Gumbley said, though he claims that most players who were owed appearance and expense money have been recompensed an "appropriate" amount.
Gumbley said the biggest hit the OSHL took was the mass migration of National Hockey Leaguers to Europe this month.
"That killed us," he said. "We had 84 guys on our first list in September and 53 of those have gone over there. But who's to say that in January, if the NHL season is canceled, that marquee guys who haven't played yet will get tired of sitting and get out there and play some charity games?"
Gumbley also has to attend to his regular duties as president of the provincial Junior A Streetsville Derbys.