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PAB Mariners to return in January 2023

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – with files from René J. Roy

PORT AUX BASQUES — The Port aux Basques Mariners are synonymous with senior hockey on the West Coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and after a pandemic that saw many organizations and teams put on hiatus, they will make their return to the ice in the new year.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, it was announced that the team would join two other senior teams, the Corner Brook Royals and the Deer Lake Red Wings, to begin playing in 2023 as part of the West Coast Senior Hockey League (WCSHL).

Jamie Young, President of the Port aux Basques Mariners, said this year holds special significance for the team.

“We’re excited about this year because we haven’t had any West Coast Senior Hockey League for the past two years due to the COVID pandemic. The last couple of years, with the restrictions in the arenas and that sort of thing, it was quite difficult to try to get a season on the go.”

Originally the plan was to have more than three teams competing.

“This year, we tried to get a four-team league going. With all the restrictions and that sort of thing being removed, we were pretty optimistic that we could get a league and we worked through it. There were four of us: Stephenville, Deer Lake, Corner Brook, and Port aux Basques. We worked hard these past couple of years to get something on the go. Finally this year we got something.”

Even though the plan was for a four-team league, Stephenville ultimately decided not to proceed.

“Unfortunately, Stephenville didn’t feel comfortable enough icing a team this year. They opted out, and so that left us with three teams. We’ve done this in the past, with a three-team league. It worked quite well. The fans loved it and the players enjoyed it. We wished for four or more teams, but sometimes you have to go with what you’ve got.”

The schedule has also been released for the games that will begin the first week in January.

“We will be playing in January. We are going to play a 12 game season,” said Young. “Then we’re going to have a semi-final and a final. We haven’t determined really yet how that is going to play out, but that’s what we are going to do.”

The official season opener for the league will be held in Port aux Basques at the Bruce II Sports Centre on Friday, Jan. 6 and fans will notice many new faces on the team.

“A lot of our previous players, they have gotten older. They have families, jobs, rotational jobs, they’ve moved out of the area. So it’s a rotation of these people, but we do have some new, younger, local talent this year. They wanted to give it a shot and we said, ‘yes, why not.’ The more local players we have, the better.”

Young said it can be hard in Port aux Basques to ice a full team.

“There’s not a lot of players around as compared to a bigger center like Corner Brook or Deer Lake,” explained Young. “But we’ve got a few younger players from the area. We picked up a few players in Stephenville, a few in Corner Brook, and there are some returning players like Ryley Nadon and Drew Nadon. They’re the twins. They’re fan favourites. Everybody knows who they are. They’re very popular with the Mariners and they’re returning. We have Dylan Savory. He’s a local boy, and his father, Todd, will be coaching this year.”

There are a few details to consider to pull off a successful league for the season.

“For the most part, it is trying to get a team and feel comfortable about having a team in the league. Obviously league comes first when we’re trying to do senior hockey because it’s no good to have one team stacked up with good players and another team not, blowout games and that sort of thing, so what we did is we had a low protected list from when we started to do this, 12 players and one goalie, and after that, all available players went into a draft, and that’s what we did about a week ago.”

Young and Mark Lawrence, General Manager and Coach for the Mariners, worked together to successfully draft several players from the area to join the team.

Young hopes this year will help cheer up the people of Port aux Basques after what was an incredibly difficult fall.

“Considering what’s been going on since September 24 with Fiona and all the devastation that went along in the town, there was a lot of heartbreak and that sort of thing, we’re hoping to get some community team spirit on the go here. We’re hoping that a lot of fans will come out and enjoy it,” said Young. “I know they will because I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. I’m getting a lot of questions. People are really excited to see the Mariners come back after a couple of years not having any senior hockey in town. Everyone is pretty excited about it. Sponsorships are going well. Everything seems to be going really well so far I’ve got to say. We’re hoping now that the community can just come together and we can give them something to cheer for.”

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