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Mariners excited for playoffs and next season

Jamie Young is President of the Port aux Basques Mariners. – Submitted photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

PORT AUX BASQUES — As the West Coast Senior Hockey League (WCSHL) season draws to a close, teams have been busy gearing up for the playoffs, all vying for a chance to win the Herder Memorial Trophy. The Herder is the championship trophy awarded each year to the senior ice hockey champions in Newfoundland and Labrador and was first claimed by the Corner Brook Royals who won the inaugural championship back in 1935. The most recent winners of the trophy were the Southern Shore Breakers in April, 2022, but this year the Port aux Basques Mariners are ready to compete and hopefully bring that win home this season. This year marks the first time since 2008 that the Herder will be contested in an East-West format, seeing the top team from each meet in a best of seven contest beginning on April 14 and ending on April 29. Seeing senior hockey make its return to the west coast region has been a welcome experience for the organizers, players and their devoted fans. “It’s been great. The fans love it. There’s been so much support and everyone has been really enthusiastic. The sponsors, and everybody that’s been on board is really great, not only Port aux Basques. Deer Lake and Corner Brook have their teams and the rinks are being sold out, and if they’re not sold out they are near capacity. You couldn’t ask for any better. It’s great to have it back after a couple years off because of COVID,” said Jamie Young, President of the Port aux Basques Mariners, only three days before his team took on Corner Brook to challenge for the West coast title and the right to play for the Herder Cup. “It’s been phenomenal and our expectations were pretty high, but we didn’t expect it to be this high. Our first weekend or two, in Port aux Basques, the Civic Center in Corner Brook, in Deer Lake, it was amazing. The turnouts we were getting, we were quite happy with it.” The players have been just as enthusiastic as the fans who have consistently shown up for each and every game to cheer on their favourite teams. “We’ve got a lot of new players on our team and, I know from the league perspective, everyone is doing really great and they’re enjoying it, especially with the fan support and stuff like that. When you have fans selling out your arena, cheering on your team, that sort of thing, it really makes them play harder,” said Young. “For us in Port aux Basques, we’ve got maybe six to eight players from Stephenville and in the Corner Brook area, and traditionally you would have practices in Port aux Basques, but what we’ve been doing since it’s harder to do them in Port aux Basques, the past few weeks we’ve been having the practices in Stephenville because it’s the centre between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques. It’s easier for us to practice that way and we’ve been trying to do that once a week and that has been going relatively well.” Despite a few logistical hurdles, the Mariners have shown up and worked hard to give their fans an exceptional senior hockey season. “We had a 12-game schedule, and around Game 8, Game 9, there were some injuries that occurred and prevented us from playing a couple of games, and not only injuries. This is a working man’s league, so you’ve got guys going away to work and these are rotational workers who are gone for two or three weeks at a time and then they come back and play their games when they’re home. So dealing with the injuries, rotational workers, and even other commitments, these are guys with families and other commitments, and sometimes all those things come on one weekend or two and it makes it difficult to get games. We had to cancel a couple of games because of low player turnout, and that’s the reason why. It’s not only us. I know Corner Brook and Deer Lake are probably facing player shortages as well for the same reasons.” The semi-finals took place between the Corner Brook Royals and the Port aux Basques Mariners just this past weekend with the winner moving on to play Deer Lake. The winner of that series will represent the WCSHL and move on to play the Avalon East Senior Hockey League champion for the Herder Cup. “We are pretty excited to have it back. The fans are excited and the players are excited,” said Young. “It should go pretty well. That’s going to start on the April 14 weekend. The first two games will be out west, the next three will be out east and the next two, if necessary, will be out west. It will take most of the month of April to get that played. The winner of the West Coast Senior Hockey League will play the winner of the Avalon East Senior Hockey League, and out east there is the Southern Shore Breakers, the defending champions. They’re still in the semi finals at the moment. The CeeBee Stars, Conception Bay Blues, and St. John’s Senior Caps, one of those teams will come and play one of our teams on the west coast.” Despite the pressure, spirits were high going into the weekend. “We’re pretty pumped. Now the games matter. They count. It’s do or die. We hope we get the series win. We are preparing for that and hoping for the best,” said Young. “Getting to the Herder is the ultimate goal.” Young, who is also a member of the executive for the WCSHL, said it took a lot of people and effort to make this such a successful hockey season for the Port aux Basques Mariners, the other two WCSHL teams and the league itself. “I want to thank all of our fans, all of our sponsors, the volunteers, for making this season quite successful. The attendance has been great, the volunteers have been there, the sponsorships have been there for us, so I want to give a warm thank you to everybody who made this season so enjoyable. We didn’t anticipate it being this great with attendance and stuff, but thank you to everyone who made this so easy. No matter what the outcome is for us, the Mariners, and all the teams, I can speak for the league when I say we will certainly be ready for next year.”

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