Sunday, January 25, 2015

RHL Huskies fold

Chris Davis

Pincher Creek's Senior Huskies hockey team has folded, sources have confirmed.  The team was formed in 2012 to allow area players to compete in the Ranchland Hockey League (RHL) after the demise of the Peigan Cowboys at the end of the 2011/12 season.  With the Huskies out the RHL is down to three teams as playoffs approach.

The RHL Huskies didn't win many games during their almost three season run, and this season they won only one of 13 games they played, and that win was due to a post-game disqualification of the Kainai Braves, due to that team having ineligible players.  Despite their poor record the Huskies did manage to bring in sizeable crowds to their home games at the Memorial Community Centre Arena.  A dwindling bench and a continuing difficulty to get players to commit has been cited as the main reason for the team's demise.  The Huskies and their predecessors, the Peigan Cowboys, also brought significant revenue to Pincher Creek, from renting ice time and by bringing people to town on a regular basis to play and spectate.

On a positive note, the Peigan Cowboys are likely to return to the RHL next season.  That was confirmed to me by their longtime coach Tyrone Potts earlier this season, who told me at that time the team would "definitely" be back for 2015/16.  On the RHL website currently there is a notice stating "The team is on the quest to re-starting for the season 2015/2016, for more details contact Tyrone Potts."  Several former Cowboys stalwarts have expressed an eagerness to reboot the team as well.  RHL Commissioner Jason "Hoopy" Hueppelsheuser confirmed that the league was in discussions with the Cowboys.

Hueppelsheuser has been helming the RHL through a difficult era, and the withdrawal of the Huskies is a definite blow. " I am at complete shock and it is a truly a sad situation," he said. "Jeff (Huskies GM Jeff Kaupp) and the management team had done great work within the team and in the community to grow the Huskies name. They were well organized and it is a shame that the players they signed did not see it, as without committed players to run your team these type of situations happen and it is sad."

Hoopy remains optimistic about the league.  "We are down to three teams and the Heritage Junior B league operated a 3 teams a few years back and kept it alive, and now is doing very well."

"We hope that teams from the past like Peigan, Lomond, Blackfoot, Claresholm find away to make a return to the RHL. It is fantastic hockey to watch and play and is great for their communities, but only time will tell what will happen."

With a new arena being built in Brocket, the Voice may be reporting on RHL hockey from a different venue next season.   It also seems eminently possible that the Lomond Lakers and Siksika may make a return next season, but that too is speculation.

Former Huskies forward Kevin Olson was on the roster this season, intending it to be his last season of contact hockey, and remained a believer in the team despite its record.  He offered his take on the situation at the Old-timers dinner yesterday evening.  "It's unfortunate," he said.  "It's one of those things where you just don't have the... you hate to say it, but it's dedication.  Nobody wanted to be committed.  And that's the thing.  I'll say it straight out, last year we made people pay to play.  As soon as you pay money, that's a commitment." Olson explained that this season, with money in the bank, it was decided to forego charging players to play.   "Well you know, if we don't charge we have 20-some guys the first game and from there on it just dwindled down.  Nobody felt they had to be there because they weren't invested.  It's unfortunate, but that's just the way it is.  We end up not having a senior team, and the league doesn't look good either.  It's only got three teams in it now, and who knows what's going to happen with it."

"Jeff (Kaupp) did a great job, unfortunately the people that we got involved just couldn't keep it going, and that's, excuse my mouth, it's s****y, it is, because I wanted to finish my career on a good note.  Regardless of our record we did have good guys come out."

Huskies GM Jeff Kaupp wasn't available for comment at the time this article was published.

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