Bracebridge lands GMHL expansion team
April 4, 2012
By Matt Driscoll
Tim Dickieson confirms that the GMHL has given him the green light to start a franchise, which he hopes to have on the ice in Bracebridge this fall.The South Muskoka Shield will soon have a new opponent in their own back yard. Photograph: Corey Wilkinson
Last week it was confirmed that Bracebridge will field a team in the Greater Metro Junior A Hockey League (GMHL) next season.
“I’m excited,” says new team owner Tim Dickieson. “This has been a long time in the works. Bracebridge was my first choice because I belive it’s a great hockey town.”
Bracebridge town council formally endorsed the application last week and agreed to provide the team with ice time at the Bracebridge Arena for the 2012-2013 season.
The GMHL began in 2006 with seven teams, including the Gravenhurst-based South Muskoka Shield, and is now up to 13 teams with several more applications on the way for the upcoming season.
“From a business standpoint it’s a success,” says Dickieson. “It’s gaining momentum.”
Dickieson is a Wasaga Beach-based businessman who says his work often brings him to the Muskoka area. He says the new franchise will bring money into town, provide a place for local players to play, and provide enjoyment for hockey fans in the community.
The GMHL has been the source of controversy in the past, largely stemming from its branding as an “outlaw league,” by Hockey Canada. That designation means no player who suits up for the GMHL can play in any Hockey Canada sanctioned league.
The “outlaw” term reared its head several times during last week’s council meeting.
“Everything in this proposal is exactly what I’d like to see at our arena, but I question this outlaw league,” said Coun. Mark Quemby, who ultimately voted against the proposal.
Dickieson bristles at the term “outlaw league.”
“They make it look like our kids have wanted posters all over town. It’s an independent league,” says Dickieson, whose son plays in the GMHL. “Some have said that nobody looks at the kids in this league and that’s not true at all. The league, from what I’ve seen, is far above the Jr. C level.”
Dickieson got some support at the council table from Mayor Graydon Smith.
“The term ‘outlaw league’ is offensive,” he said. “It’s just a hockey league . . . and a business opportunity we should be excited about.”
Coun. Quemby also questioned the fee charged to GMHL players, which Dickieson estimated would be roughly $5,000 per player. Dickieson says that price tag is less than half of what some young players pay to play in leagues based in the GTA.
Dickieson says he’s been in contact with Shield owner Gord Carey to discuss a second team in Muskoka.
“I need to respect their territory,” says Dickieson. “Gord’s been super and everyone’s in this for the betterment of their communities.”
Although members of the public have expressed concern in recent years over the state of the aging Bracebridge Arena, Dickieson says the facility is the perfect location for a new GMHL team.
“It’s ideal,” he says. “From the people I’ve talked to in the Bracebridge area, I think there will be a lot of support.”
Dickieson says he plans to stage a contest to select a team name some time later this month.