Coach resigns, but GM forging ahead
The prospects for Junior hockey in Slave Lake this season took a blow last week when Slave Lake Icedogs’ coach Todd White stepped down. That followed insinuations making the rounds on social media that the owner (or owners) of the team were not to be trusted.
At least one of the key volunteers got cold feet and stepped down as well.
Then there’s the confusion about what league the team might be in, or affiliated with, if it does take off this fall.
Sorting out fact from fiction in this case is on the tricky side. The best we could do is talk to Lauren Barr, the Icedogs’ owner and general manager, to find out where things stand. As of Friday, July 12, she seemed as determined as ever to make it work.
“The only way there won’t be Junior ‘A’ hockey in Slave Lake this season is if the people don’t want it,” she told The Leader in a phone conversation. “And they do want it.”
The loss of coach White was a blow, she admitted. But not a fatal one.
“Todd quitting has made it difficult,” she said. “But we can hire another coach.”
Barr stressed the fact that all the player signings are solid, bills have been paid in advance, and disputes (mainly) emanating out of Hinton “have nothing to do with the Icedogs.”
Hinton is the place, readers will recall, where the WPHA (Western Provinces Hockey Association) Wildcats played last season, and still owe the Town of Hinton some money. The town apparently terminated the relationship, the Western States Hockey League (parent league to the WPHA) stepped in and proposed a new franchise, and the WPHA instigated a lawsuit to stop that from happening. Then it broke with the WSHL and joined up with a Toronto-based league, the GMHL. There’s more to the story, and hard feelings are rampant. Some people don’t want the Slave Lake project to succeed, Barr said, for reasons that “have nothing to do with us.” She added that the WPHA does not own the Icedogs.
Giving the Icedogs the benefit of the doubt, the question still arises about what league they would play in. Barr said last week she is talking to the WSHL about that. If that bears fruit, the Icedogs would play in a league including Edson, Meadow Lake, “and a new team in Barrhead.” The ‘other’ league – consisting of Hinton, the Enoch Tomahawks, a new team just announced in Rosetown Saskatchewan, and another one in Edmonton – would presumably be affiliated with the Greater Metro Hockey League, and have nothing to do with the league the Icedogs would be in. But all of that was still up in the air by press time.
Barr certainly has her work cut out for her. Confidence in the viability of the project has been rattled in Slave Lake, and the Todd White departure won’t help. But despite the rumours and defections, she says “people are reaching out and saying they want to help.”
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and Barr is confident the product on the ice will be pleasing to Slave Lake hockey fans.
“If they come out and watch it, then we’ll have their support.”