Poor turnout at Rainy River hockey meeting

With just over 20 parents attending a meeting last Thursday to discuss the possibility of merging Rainy River’s minor hockey program with the one in Baudette, the next step will be to send out an information package.
“I’m disappointed in the turnout,” Don Gall, president of the Rainy River Minor Hockey Association, admitted yesterday morning. “The coverage was good so everyone knew about it.
“People we’re talking about it but I guess nobody really cares because it’s always the same people [out at these meetings],” he added.
A similar meeting was held in Baudette earlier that evening.
Gall suggested the relatively short notice of the meeting (it was announced last Monday) may have led to the lower-than-expected numbers.
So he said the “survey,” designed by RRMHA board member Dennis Kuzyk, will be sent out to inform people of the issues and allow them to make a decision one way or another.
“We’ll let the survey go out, and let’s face it, it’s not hard to get a hold of everyone around here, everybody knows everybody, and we’ll talk to each parent and see how they feel,” Gall remarked.
“Then they’ll have to make a decision.”
But those on hand for last week’s meeting appeared to favour amalgamating the hockey program with Baudette’s, said Rainy River Record editor Ken Johnston, who covered the meeting.
Many people noted recent changes by the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) ignored the needs of small towns such as Rainy River and suggested it would be in their best interest to join Baudette.
Gall also said the players in Rainy River may see their registration fees (which were $150 last year) lowered for next season if they join with Baudette.
Still, he stressed any decisions that are made will be done to “benefit” the kids and be in their “best interests.”
There’s no question the future of minor hockey in Rainy River–currently sitting at 68 players–is at stake.
At issue after the meeting, however, was whether the Thunder Bay Amateur Hockey Association or the CAHA would accept Rainy River’s decision to disband and join forces with Baudette under the U.S. hockey program?
And would they allow Rainy River back in under CAHA guidelines if this merger fails?
But when contacted by the Times late last week, Joe Ward, executive director of the TBAHA, said he would have no problem allowing Rainy River to leave the association.
(The Minnesota Amateur Hockey Association already has given its approval to the proposed merger).
Ward also said the program simply would have to fill out an “application” in order to get re-instated with Canadian hockey if it chose to down the road.
Although that’s the answer he wanted, Gall still was miffed with the TBAHA’s attitude towards them.
“It always seems like we’re left out in the cold. . . it’s like we are kind of sheltered here,” he charged. “It seems like they would be more than happy to get rid of us,”
But while, at first glance, it would appear favourable for Rainy River to join Baudette, some contentious issues would need to be addressed.
With Baudette having more than double the number of Rainy River players, for instance, it’s feared the new board would be dominated by members who live there.
No other meeting has been planned until parents have a chance to read over the new package. And only after feedback has been received from all of the parents involved will a vote will be taken.
But a decision is expected sometime next month in order to prepare for the 1999-2000 hockey season.