The president of the Alvinston Flyers says the clubs move to Petrolia is solely to attract more quality players to the organization.
The Jr. C club confirmed rumours about the move before the Flyers season ended. The backlash was strong with politicians criticizing the move and fans starting a petition to try to stall it.
It was not the way Dennis Meston wanted to break the news to the community but he says his hand was forced and he wasn’t full able to explain the reason for the move.
So Thursday, Meston and other members of the club executive have agreed to be a part of a community meeting organized by Dan Cumming. He’s the man behind the petition calling on the Ontario Hockey Association to stall the move. Meston hopes to clear up some of the rumours circulating by fully explaining why the Flyers want to go to Petrolia. Meston has already met with members of council about the transition.
Meston says the Flyers are breaking even and have been “making it work” in Alvinston for 27 years. But a change in the structure of hockey has made it difficult to attract players.
A sevearal years ago, the OHA eliminated the Jr. D league which was prevalent in many Middlesex communities. The Flyers could attract players who wanted to be in the more competitive Jr. C loop then. But when the OHA turned the Jr. D teams into Jr. C teams, those players chose to play “in their own backyard.”
“It wasn’t always this way – we had some pretty decent teams but we’ve lost some of those drawing areas because someone changed the rules,” Meston told The Independent.
He hopes being close to a larger centers will be conducive to attracting players. “Maybe we can get a couple more of the Petrolia kids that did play in Dresden, to play with us, maybe a couple of kids in Sarnia who didn’t consider us because it was 45 minutes away – now its 20 minutes away. We can recruit from (Lambton) college.”
Meston says the three member executive have been dealing with the problem for years – five years ago, it considered a move to Watford for the same reason. At the time, the group wanted to keep the team in Alvinston.
Meston says this time around, all three members of the executive agreed with moving to Petrolia. And he says 90 per cent of the people who volunteer with club will continue helping the team in Petrolia.
Meston adds there wasn’t a “special deal” to bring them to Petrolia as some have suggested. Meston says the team will be getting a dressing room – the one the Jr. B Jets used to occupy – but it will pay more in Petrolia for ice time. He says that underscores the fact this move is simply to attract better players.
“We need to get into a better location – I don’t mean arena – I mean better population to have more to offer players to come and play with us.
“We’re not leaving because we want to leave the people or the fans, it’s the location.”
The community meeting on the Flyers’ move will be Thursday at 8:30 pm at the Brooke-Alvinston-Inwood Arena,.