Word has come down from the Eastern Ontario Junior Hockey League that the Morrisburg Junior (B) Lions are not being included in the re-configuration that will see the current 22 team league chopped to 16 teams.
So ends, close to 50 years of Junior B Lions history in Morrisburg, that began with the purchase of the franchise by John Rice, who, with Hosea Droppo and Blake Cruickshank, revamped junior hockey in the village.
The announcement that the Lions have been cut from the proposed EOJHL league was made by Lions president/general manager Kevin Casselman, Monday night, April 13.
“We must say that following 10 months of rumours, we were not really surprised with the decision,” said Casselman on behalf of owners, Rick Gilmer, Dale Lewis and Gary Brownlee. “Although difficult to accept at first, the decision might very well be for the best!”
“The landscape of junior hockey is changing, and within their vision [EOJHL] for the new league, comes a rapid incline in operational expenses,” says Casselman. “With the continuing decline in the number of players choosing to play, it will only compound into an expensive business venture to operate a junior hockey team within the reconfiguration of the league.”
“We wish to make everyone aware, and we are pleased to inform our loyal supporters, players, and parents, that we have applied for membership to the executive committee of the National Capital Junior Hockey League (NCJHL). Our objective is to continue providing junior hockey here in Morrisburg, and by all accounts, we are hoping that everything will be approved in the near future.”
The Lions organization is encouraging everyone to “remove the negative perceptions, and stereotypes that we are being demoted. As mentioned, the landscape of junior hockey is changing.”
Casselman points out that the NCJHL is a very good and solid league, and is only going to continue to improve.
“Reflecting back on the decades and heritage of the Morrisburg Lions organization, it took courage, faith, endurance, determination, and pride to surmount all obstacles that built this organization, and with those same characters we will once again be successful.”
Casselman says he is confident the Lions’ fan base will be energized with new teams coming in. Players will see a reduction in travel, and most importantly, “we should be in a good position to offer local kids more opportunities to play junior hockey in their home town.”
The move for us to NCJHL will maintain our organization’s strategic plan for our Vision .. Goals .. Objectives.
“We are proud of our community, proud of our organization past and present, and are looking positively towards a continuation of providing junior hockey in our community.”
Should the Lions be accepted, the teams listed with the NCJHL last season were the Cumberland Bandits, Embrun Panthers, Olympiques Jr. de Gatineau, Predateurs de La Peche, North Dundas Rockets, Papineauville Vikings, Rockland Nationals, St. Isidore Eagles and VanKleek Hill Cougars.