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Journal Pioneer - 2021-11-24

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Encouraging signs for return of WPSHL

Sports

JASON SIMMONDS Jason.simmonds@theguardian.pe.ca @JpsportsJason

TIGNISH – Early indications point to the West Prince Senior Hockey League (WPSHL) returning for the 2021-22 season. The league, which did not operate last year due to COVID-19, is optimistic its fifth season will begin in December. “That’s all everybody talks about, ‘When is the senior (hockey) starting?,’” said new league president Dwyane Handrahan of Tignish. “It’s unreal how many people want to watch it.” Handrahan said there could be four, possibly five teams, participating this season. Handrahan has had meetings with team reps from Tignish, Alberton, O’Leary, Tyne Valley and Wellington and said all five centres are working hard at forming teams. "It is early yet, and I do not know if any team has been on the ice yet, but by going with a brief message sent around, it looks like it will be a good turnout for numbers in Tignish,” said Tignish team representative Mike O’Halloran. “Whether it stays like that when the time comes, I am not sure, but I think everyone will be excited to get it going again.” The league last played in March 2020. Tignish led Wellington 2-0 in the championship series when that season came to an abrupt end due to COVID-19. Alberton and O'Leary also iced teams that season. The gate-driven league, which has drawn well in all markets, provides a great source of revenue for community rinks. Each rink operates the team playing out of its facility. Handrahan said teams could bring in between $10,000 and $15,000 in revenue for arenas. “It’s big for the rinks, and it’s great for the players,” said Wellington representative Neil Arsenault. “We are putting anywhere between 500 and 1,000 people in the rinks, and they are packed. “It brings back the goosebump feeling, you could say. It’s great for the community and all of West Prince.” Handrahan pointed out the league is good for morale in the different communities and provides an opportunity for people to support their arenas. SCHEDULE Handrahan said the number of regular-season games depends on the number of teams. In previous seasons, teams have basically played home-andhome games with each squad. Handrahan is hoping to have a firm commitment from teams by the second week of December. Handrahan would like to see the regular season start on Boxing Day and added the goal is to begin the playoffs the last week of February and be down to the final series by March Break. Handrahan attributes the league’s success to a strong emphasis on local players. That won’t change any time soon. To be eligible to play, players must live within their community's fire district. Players can also play in the community where they began playing minor hockey. “Everybody knows everybody, and nobody is playing in the league that you don’t know,” said Handrahan. “Everybody wants to come and watch it.” In the past, the league has made exceptions. For example, Wellington received permission to add a couple of players from Summerside in recent years. Handrahan did not rule out a similar possibility if it could be the difference between a team operating or not. Arsenault expects the majority of Wellington’s core group to return. “It’s a fun league,” said Arsenault. “It’s going to be exciting to get it going again. Everybody involved is definitely excited to get going.”

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