With the approach of September, the Digby-based Fuelers are usually ready to open training camp but a lack of players prompted team official Justin Wood to request a leave of absence from the provincial league.
“We just can’t do it with 10 players,” Wood said in an interview.
A regular roster could see the team carry as many as 25 players until January when it would then cut back to 23.
He said the franchise ‘s owners are looking at all options, including sale and a possible move to a more central location in the Valley. Some Fuelers players have traveled in recent years from as far as Halifax for games and a central location may spur some interest.
Until moving to Digby several years ago, the franchise was based in Bridgetown and known as the Valley Keith’s.
“We’re looking for interest from anybody, although we would were hoping locals might take it over but there doesn’t seem to be any interest.
“We averaged 75 to 100 fans a game and they were supporting not just the team but the canteen which is operated by minor hockey,” Wood said. “Our sponsors were great, even with the small crowds.”
The arena will also lose a block of ice time rentals that were used for practices as well as games.
The Fuelers are not the only team taking a leave of absence this year. New Waterford Jets suspended operations before the end of last season blaming a lack of player commitment, but the organization is working hard to rebuild.
South Shore took a leave of absence last season and Yarmouth has twice dropped out of the Junior C league.
On the other hand, Spryfield in Halifax has joined this year, bringing Junior C hockey to the community after more than two decades. The Attack will draw their players from Spryfield through to Sackville and surrounding areas.
Spryfield head coach Paul Strople has professional playing and coaching experience in Europe and recently coached the Chinese women’s Olympic hockey team.
The absence of the Valley Fuelers this season will leave local fans with Junior C action in Clare with the ever potent Lions as well as the Digby Regional High School Mariners hockey team which returned to the ice last season.