The Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers is looking at bringing junior hockey to Massey Arena for the 2015-2016 season.
Through its parks and recreation co-ordinator Brady Ropp, the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers — which serves the communities of Massey, Walford and Webbwood with a combined population of about 3,200 — has initiated talks with Tim Clayden, who is the president of the fledgling Canadian International Hockey League.
Massey is located about 55 miles west of Sudbury and 130 miles east of Sault Ste. Marie along Highway 17.
Ropp first inquired about the possibility of getting a team that would play out of Massey Arena earlier this week when he learned that the Town of Espanola had issued a press release stating that it was “exercising its right” to terminate its contract with the Espanola Rivermen of the CIHL.
Of note, the Rivermen have a signed agreement with the Town of Espanola and its arena facility that extends to May, 2017.
Espanola, with a population of around 5,300, is located about 20 miles east of Massey.
Clayden, the CIHL founder and president who also owns the Rivermen, said he is having ongoing discussions with Ropp about a team for the Sables-Spanish Rivers area.
“First of all, I await correspondence from Espanola Town Council after receiving our letter from my legal counsel. I remain hopeful that the Rivermen can continue to operate in Espanola as per our signed agreement.
“Having said that, I want to say that it is very encouraging that Mr. Ropp has been incredibly proactive in advocating for a junior hockey team to play out of Massey Arena.
“Obviously, Brady has a background in recreation and recognizes the importance of having a strong junior hockey program operating in his community as what would be a big part of the very fiber of the Sables-Spanish Rivers area.
“There is so much more to a good junior hockey program than just playing hockey games,” Clayden continued, “and Brady and I have discussed a few scenarios that include a community rally of sorts to ensure the area has 15 billet homes for kids to live and play in the Sable-Spanish Rivers area. We have also discussed a community season ticket drive to confirm the support for a team that would play out of Massey Arena.”
When asked if it was conceivable that the CIHL could have teams that play out of both Espanola and Massey, Clayden replied in the affirmative.
Clayden has said that the CIHL — which completed its inaugural 2014-2015 season with just two entries, Espanola and the Batchewana Attack — will only move forward in 2015-2016 if it has a minimum of four teams.
With the Rivermen, the Attack and a new entry that would play out of Levack thanks to a signed arena agreement with the City of Greater Sudbury, the CIHL currently stands at three teams.
As for Ropp and the aspirations of the Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers to have a CIHL team playing out of Massey Arena next season, the parks and recreation co-ordinator spoke in positive tones.
“I agree with Mr. Clayden on the importance of recreation and I am a strong advocate that recreation plays a vital role in the quality of life and the positive growth of vibrant communities.
“Junior hockey would be a great addition to our community and would play a valuable role in the development of our current minor hockey system. Positive role models playing an elite level of hockey will give our young players something to aspire to and hopefully lead them to living an active lifestyle.
The intangible benefits of junior hockey would benefit our community greatly. I hope to move forward positively in the planning of junior hockey in Massey,” Ropp told HockeyNewsNorth.com.