The North Eastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League season continues on Friday with one fewer team coming back.
The Lac La Biche Clippers announced via their social media streams on Dec. 31 that they were ceasing operations for the remainder of the season.
Coach Rick Rosychuk said it wasn’t something he wanted to do, but recruiting players became more of a challenge as the season progressed.
“Financially, we’re fine 100 per cent. We can’t find players and we’re losing players,” Rosychuk told Lakeland Connect. “I think COVID has played a big part in it. Because there’s not as much interest. This is the first time in five years, there’s just not enough interest. But what’s also happened is the Junior A teams have been able to keep 25 kids not I’ve cut down to 21. Yeah, so there’s not as many Junior A cuts.
“We just talked before we face big fines and other stuff. And we tried 110 per cent–it was a full time job–but couldn’t find them, so we had no choice,” he said.
Before the holiday break, games against Wainwright and Cold Lake had to be rescheduled due to the lack of players.
The Clippers, despite struggling with numbers, had put together a 6-14-2 before finally pulling the plug. The NEAJBHL in recent years has lost teams, including the Onion Lake Border Chiefs, Saddle Lake Warriors,
Rosychuk said the full intention is to go forward and bring the Clippers back for next season.
“All we’ve done is take a leave of absence for the rest of the year. And we’re gonna go again 100 per cent. That’s our intent, right,” said Rosychuk.
Regular season continues Friday
Meanwhile, the St. Paul Canadiens go out on the road to the Border City to take on the Lloyd Bandits on Friday night. The Canadiens host the Killam Wheat Kings in a battle for second place. The Canadiens enter the weekend with 36 points, one behind the Wheat Kings.
The Cold Lake Ice are on the road for a pair of games this weekend. On Friday, they travel to Vermilion to take on the Tigers, and on Saturday they take on the Bandits.
*Correction: Both of the Lloyd Bandits’ games against St. Paul and Cold Lake this weekend have been postponed due to COVID-related issues with the team.