Council backs new GMHL team
Bracebridge council is welcoming the economic possibilities that a newly proposed hockey team is promising to bring to the region.
Councillors voiced their support for bringing a new Greater Metro Hockey League (GMHL) team to Bracebridge during a general committee meeting on March 27. The support came just weeks after league officials confirmed with this newspaper that the new team is in the works. GMHL president Bob Russell has said the league will discuss approving a team for Bracebridge once its playoff games wrap up.
“I’m very excited about the prospect of a new business opening and being located in the Town of Bracebridge,” said Mayor Graydon Smith. “I think this an exceptional opportunity for us.”
The proposal for a Bracebridge team comes from Tim Dickieson, a businessman who runs a property appraisal service based in Wasaga Beach. Coming from a family with strong involvement in hockey, Dickieson said having a new team here will help bolster the town’s strong historical support for the sport.
“The opportunity of having a GMHL junior A team in Bracebridge not only contributes to that history and heritage, but also offers an opportunity for community involvement, and a secure way of maintaining a successful monetary structure for myself as a business owner and for the reputation of the Town of Bracebridge,” he said in his proposal for the team.
“I believe … the addition of a GMHL team in Bracebridge would be beneficial for all parties involved — not only for our younger kids to have role models, but for community enjoyment and a substantial increase in general revenue to the local economy through increased tourism and the confirmed GMHL Showcase Tourney.”
Founded in 2006, the GHML currently features 13 teams from across Ontario, including the South Muskoka Shield in Gravenhurst. It was branded an “outlaw” league in 2008 by Hockey Canada — the governing body for ice hockey in the country — as it does not fall under Hockey Canada’s authority.
The GMHL is one of two non-sanctioned leagues in Canada, and its players cannot play in nationally or regionally sanctioned tournaments. While Hockey Canada teams are limited to mostly Canadian players, the GMHL brings in players from anywhere, including Europe and Russia.
In his proposal, Dickieson anticipates that the Bracebridge team will have 26 players. His proposal says each player will be charged a fee of $5,000 to play, which together with an estimated $20,000 in sponsorship money, will give the team a budget of $150,000.
A report tabled before council by Bracebridge facilities manager Don Campbell and culture and recreation director Leo Broere says the new team would require the newly amalgamated South Muskoka Minor Hockey Association (SMMHA) to sacrifice 21 home games — each at 180 minutes — to accommodate the proposed GMHL team. The SMMHA is part of a different league — the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA).
Broere and Campbell’s report says the GMHL team also needs at least two, 120-minute practice sessions on the ice each week. Although the report says the town is anticipated to lose about $7,000 in revenue from SMMHA due to lost ice time, the GMHL team is expected to generate a net increase of $28,000 per year from ice and auditorium rental fees.
Coun. Mark Quemby questioned the GMHL’s standing with Hockey Canada, and whether the proposed team’s projected revenues will add up if it is approved.
“If you have four lines, three sets of defenders and two goalies, there’s 20 (players). I’d be surprised that there’d be six other players willing to pay $5,000 to watch these games,” he said. “If a player is in an outlaw league, they’re banned from any Ontario Hockey Association activity; they couldn’t go to an Ontario Hockey League team any time after that.”
Smith said he considers it “pretty offensive” to refer to the GMHL as an outlaw league.
“It is simply a hockey league operated by businessmen who are providing a product and an opportunity for kids to play hockey,” he said. “Our business is to provide ice time and to accept the revenues generated for the town.”
In the past, Russell had said he feels Bracebridge has an excellent market for hockey, citing high attendance at prior playoff games when the Shield played at Bracebridge Memorial Arena.
Bracebridge Minor Hockey Association president Barry Hammond, whose club will be folded into the SMMHA next season, said his organization supports opportunities to improve local hockey for the community and local youth. However, he said his organization and the SMMHA cannot give the proposed GMHL team its support.
“We are members of the OMHA and the Ontario Hockey Association, and the GMHL is an outlaw league in the eyes of our association,” he wrote in a letter to council.