It looks like the Windsor Royals Jr. B hockey team will be hanging up their skates for at least a year.
Dan Boyd, the interim president of the Windsor Royals executive, confirmed in an interview June 12 that they have requested a one-year hiatus for the team.
“We’ve hit a few rough patches and we are requesting a year’s leave of absence from the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League,” Boyd said.
“There are a variety of reasons,” he said, adding, “(There’s) just too much turmoil and conflict. It continued past the end of the season. We’ve had meetings where we’ve not been able to get quorums and we’ve not been able to do business.”
Issues within the Windsor Royals first first came to light publicly in February of this year when members of the executive fired, then rehired, the head coach and assistant coaches during the team's playoff series with East Hants.
Since that time, rumours have been circulating throughout the community that there were plans to not ice a team this year.
Boyd contacted Hockey Nova Scotia June 11 to make the request official. But it’s a decision that not everyone is happy about.
Dale Evans, the vice-president of the executive, wants the Junior B team to play this coming season. He is one of four members on the Royals’ executive that are opposed to the current plans.
“Hockey Nova Scotia was advised that they're making application to take a leave of absence. None of this stuff was voted on,” Evans said in an interview June 12.
“They're claiming… unrest on the executive board is the reason that we're taking a leave of absence. But, Alcohol and Gaming was notified a couple of months ago that this was their intention — again, without the vote of the executive board, which they have no right to do,” Evans said.
The Alcohol and Gaming Division of Nova Scotia provides the Royals with a license for their television bingo, which is their main method of raising funds.
Evans said prior to deciding to put the team on hiatus, the majority of the executive were toying with the idea of cutting back the team's funding.
“They are planning to take a leave of absence, or, worst-case scenario, they were going to cut our funds to ice time and registration only and we had to raise the other $60,000 even though we have revenues of $110,000 in the bingo,” said Evans.
He believes this decision has been in the works for a while.
When it comes to holding meetings, the executive must have a quorum, which is eight people. Currently, there are seven members in favour of the plans, and four opposed — for a total of 11 members. Meetings cannot be held if at least eight executive members are not in attendance. Boyd said they’ve tried to hold several meetings in the past couple of months, but had to cancel them because they did not have a quorum.
“People see me as an ogre, as somebody that is out to cut the feet out from under the Royals. I hear the talk. That’s so far from the truth it’s not even funny,” said Boyd.
“We, as an executive... have an executive board of directors of 15. There are four vacancies. Seven supported (the hiatus), four are against it,” he continued. “You go anywhere in life: the majority rules.”
There were four seats on the board of directors vacant. But, Boyd said two people were welcomed as members at a meeting a few weeks ago and will become official directors on June 21 at an executive meeting. That will give them the quorum they need to hold meetings and make decisions.
The new members will be Garnet 'Gun' Smith, the former president of the Royals who stepped down last fall, and Jeff Veinot, a relative of Grant Veinot — a current member of the executive.
Evans said the four opposing members boycotted some of the executive meetings because they knew what the majority of the executive hoped to accomplish.
“One of them was an emergency meeting and it was called two days after a discussion had been had and we boycotted the meeting because we know what their intentions are. Their intentions are to not have a hockey team next year.”
Evans said the fate of the Royals shouldn’t be left up to a handful of executive members. The community should have a say in whether they will support the team.
“If the community doesn't want a hockey team, then we don’t have a hockey team. But, I want the community to know what's going on and I want them to have a voice,” said Evans.
A public meeting has been scheduled for June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hants County War Memorial Community Centre for that purpose.
“The meeting on June 19 is to rally the community and let them have a voice. And, if they decide they don't want a hockey team next year, then so be it. They've spoken. It's a democratic process and we've abided by the bylaws,” said Evans.
Although not originally from the community, Evans said he became involved with the executive because he's a fan of the sport.
“I don't play hockey; I watch it. I don't play it; I don't have any kids playing it. I don't have an agenda; I don't have an invested interest in this. I just like watching hockey. I volunteered to be part of the executive board just so I could help out,” said Evans.
He feels any major decisions involving the club should be made out in the open.
“Windsor is the birthplace of hockey. There's a lot of people in the community that have played with the Windsor Royals, that have coached the Windsor Royals, that are parents of players... that want to see the tradition continue. They need a decision in this. They need a comment on this.”
But Boyd said the June 19 meeting came as news to him and said it was not associated with the Windsor Royals executive.
Money well spent
Boyd said the majority of the executive feel the money raised through bingo could be better spent.
“The Royals have a proud 47 year tradition in the town but at the same time, the majority of the executive — not the full executive but the majority — looked at it as instead of buying goalie pads for a kid from Ontario, paying money to release a kid out of Ontario — our leading scorer was from BC last year — we were thinking of ways... the bingo money (could) maybe help local people more,” he said.
Boyd noted they would like to help foster a love of the sport in the region and provide funding to develop local skills.
“We were thinking that maybe if we could take our money and put it into the high school hockey team — that’s one example — minor hockey, and try to bring our hockey skills back,” said Boyd. “I’m not saying one year can do it but one year can help.”
Boyd pointed out there were only a few local players on the Windsor Royals in the 2011-12 season. Brandon Parker, Mark Swain and Jake Galbraith were the only ones from Hants County. Goaltender Tyler Whynot was originally from the area, but moved away.
“We go back to the days of the mid-60s and early 70s when the Windsor Royals hit the ice and 10, 11, 12, 13 of the 18 guys were all from Windsor West Hants,” he said.
Boyd also said if granted a one-year hiatus, they would look at donating the Royals' ice time to deserving groups, and create a health and education component in which they could help those less fortunate in the community.
What constitutes membership
Interpreting the Windsor Royals Hockey Club 2010 Society bylaws also created an issue to divide the executive.
Evans said the four members opposed to putting the team on hiatus take the bylaws, which are through the Registry of Joint Stocks, literally. Boyd said there are different ways to interpret the bylaws. As such, he sought legal advice.
“We felt bad that we had to go get the legal opinion. We would have rather of dealt with this through a normal meeting process,” said Boyd. “But, I mean, people got their dander up and they started challenging every last little bylaw and how it was to be interpreted and we just said, 'Look, we’re not going to sit here and do this the entire summer. We’re just not.'”
Boyd said they received clear guidance.
“In order to be a member of the society, you have to be welcomed into the society,” said Boyd, noting that some people thought as long as they attended one meeting they could automatically vote.
“It wasn’t explained properly to them,” he said. “The members of the society, if they’re welcomed in, they’re not able to vote. It’s only the board of directors who are able to vote. That’s what our legal opinion says. We now have it in writing.”
Evans, however, interprets the bylaws differently.
“We've attempted to have two public meetings where the society — meaning the community — gets to come and vote on exactly what happens. Both of these meetings were set up by me, the vice-president, to include the public opinion because I want to know what the community wants,” said Evans, noting both meetings were cancelled.
The Windsor Royals executive did hold a failed annual general meeting May 24. The AGM had to be postponed because the meeting had not been advertised appropriately and far enough in advance.
When that happened, Evans said he thought that could work in their favour because there was a considerable amount of people in attendance that night — the majority wanting the Royals to play this year. According to the bylaws, he says those people should have the right to vote and elect the next executive.
“It was actually a blessing in disguise because one of our bylaws states that the only way a society member can vote is if they've been to a previous meeting,” said Evans. “Well, no body had been to a previous meeting. Now, as of May 24, because the AGM was cancelled, they now have a right to vote.”
In the interview, Boyd maintained that the people who attended the failed AGM were not considered members.
“I want to stress again that so many people think they’re members of the society because they’ve come to one meeting over the last year, year and a half or two years. That’s not the case,” said Boyd. “If they’re interested in serving, we can always meet with them and discuss what the Registry of Joint Stocks told us and like our legal advice told us.”
Section 6 of the bylaw's membership rights and responsibilities states: "Membership in the society shall consist of: a) the minimum of five subscribers to the Memorandum of Association, b) those who support the objects of the society, c) those whose name and address is written in the register of members by the secretary, d) those who pay an annual fee in an amount to be determined by the society, and/or e) those who reside in the geographic area of Windsor-West Hants, and/or Kings, Lunenburg, Annapolis and Digby countys."
Section 4 states: "Every member may vote at any members' meeting of the society after they have attended at least one previous members' meeting."
Former captain speaks out
Erik Jackaman, the 2011-12 team captain, also doesn’t want to see the Royals throw in the towel — even if it's just for a year.
Jackaman, who was reached via email at his job site in the Yukon, said he hoped to return this year as an assistant coach and sit on the board of directors along with another former player. Jackaman said that would make the board “more diversified” and would give “other points of view when issues arise.”
Jackaman, one of the team's leading scorers last year, said any decision that could disband the group is 'ridiculous.'
“The group lead by Mr. Dale Evans and Mr. Randy Graham are 110 per cent committed to transforming the Windsor Royals' culture to create a more positive environment for everyone involved. The biggest part of this is to put the focus back on the players on the ice, and not on the board of directors and management. After all, the product on the ice is what bring the fans to the rink,” Jackaman wrote to the Journal.
But Boyd said the fan numbers are just not there to financially support paying for the ice time.
“Game time and game time expenses cost us about $585-$600. All the years I’ve been president of the Royals, we’ve never had enough gate money to pay the full bill. When I say the full bill, I mean the ice time to that night,” said Boyd.
“But I don’t want to blame the fans. In saying that, the rink is not exactly one of the more up-to-date, universal spots in the province. Maybe someday somebody will get around to fixing it up, putting a little heat in it,” he continued.
Boyd said the Royals was one of the few teams that were taking buses to out-of-town games, which was an added expense. He said the majority of the executive took a hard look at where the money was going. Since these players were “basically winding up their junior career,” Boyd said the executive felt the money could be better spent elsewhere.
It's anticipated that on July 7 the executive will learn whether they will be granted the leave of absence.
“If the league says no, we are not granting you a leave of absence, we’re going to disband your franchise — I can’t speak to what would happen then,” said Boyd.
“We’re going to have representatives there but we’re going to put forward a very strong case.”
Stay tuned to the Hants Journal as this story unfolds.