Hope for senior hockey in Lacombe springs eternal, with a potential new AA North Central Senior Hockey League (NCHL) looking to move operations to play their 2019-20 season out of the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex.
With the AAA Lacombe Generals recently announcing they are ceasing operations, the Eckville Eagles of the NCHL see Lacombe as a potential opportunity for growth.
“It is probably the worst-kept secret going right now, but our Assistant GM Jared Williams is a Lacombe native and he is spearheading this whole thing,” Eagles owner and defenceman Reed Watts said. “He has the connection and he is really pounding the pavement to facilitate the move.”
The Eagles, who are considering rebranding as the Lacombe Generals after the potential move, recently received permission from the City of Lacombe to begin operations next season and are now waiting for NCHL approval.
“It will be bittersweet if we can make this happen,” Eckville native Watts said. “The truth is that with the AAAs shutting down, there is a big market without a team. With our situation in Eckville, in our eyes, we have hit our max on fan support and revenues.
“We looked at it as best for business and by moving it will give us an opportunity to have a higher budget which will allow us to move from one of the lower-spending teams to be able to do a bit more.”
Watts said the Gary Moe Auto Group Sportsplex is a big reason why the Eagles would make the move to Lacombe.
“I am from Eckville and played my whole minor hockey career there, but the fact is we will have an easier time attracting players to a facility like Lacombe,” he said. “It will be easier for us to attract players when they have the opportunity to potentially have a place to leave their equipment, along with having their own stalls.”
Watts wanted to ensure people knew the move does not stem from a lack of appreciation for Eckville.
“Our situation in Eckville has been tremendous, we love the people there and the arena staff are great people, along with all the volunteers but the fact is that we are always short-handed and struggling to find volunteers. Lacombe offers a better opportunity for us on that,” he said.
The potential adoption of the Generals name hinges on several factors.
“I see maintaining that name as the logical choice, but it could also be a fresh start for the name,” he said. “We are going to be talking to people in the community. When we moved to Eckville, there was debate about the name and ultimately I came in with veto power and said the name is the Eagles. That is what Eckville teams are.
“We have’t made commitments on names because we also don’t know if the existing Generals will allow us because they may have aspirations to run the AAA team again in seasons ahead.”
The potential new Lacombe Generals would stay at the NCHL AA level and would not compete for the AAA Allan Cup.
Watts stressed that the move remains unconfirmed until the NCHL approves the move.
“I don’t want to say goodbyes to Eckville yet,” he said.