By Darren Lum
Sept. 20 2016
It’s officially over.
The rough and tumble Haliburton Wolves team that played in the Greater Metro Junior Hockey League has folded.
At the start of the season there was a great amount of hoopla and fanfare. On the ice the team struggled (9-32-1) but showed flashes of excellence. They completed the season amid several personnel changes on the ice and off of it which included two different coaches three captains the death of the goalie coach and (later revealed) owner of the team Brad Williams. Despite this the team gained a small following and while the A.J. LaRue Arena might not have always been full it was raucous and sometimes jubilant on the rare night when the team won. Some are happy the team is gone while others will remember the many young men who came for the hockey experience and found so much more taking a little bit of the Highlands with them.
The team’s last known general manager and one-time owner Stephane Lavault who later said Williams was the owner and he was just assisting said he has nothing to do with the team since it ended its season. This contrasts with pre-season articles in the Echo that identified him as an owner.
“When Brad died the team became his brother’s” he said referring to who he said is Guy Williams.
Before contacting Lavault the Echo sent questions related to the future of the team to its official Facebook page.
“The owner of the Wolves Brad Williams passed away this past February from cancer. Stephane kept the teams running for him during his illness and treatment he was hoping for recovery. He tried to find a new owner for the team but the township did not want the team back in Haliburton.”
When asked to provide an identity the person responded: “at this point the person giving this information wants to remain anonymous. And you’re right the team has folded due to no ownership and no arena to play in.”
Lavault said “There was supposed to be a new owner. I heard the town turned a new deal down.”
Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey said little but was definite on the team’s lack of action and commitment.
“There will be no Wolves. There has been no communication from that organization to the township” he said. “There will be no junior hockey in Haliburton this year.”
Despite Lavault’s past roles with the team including being the general manager at the end of the season he distanced himself from the team he operated.
“When the season finished I was done” he said.
When pressed about the activity on the page and how statements were being made through it Lavault deferred to the team’s original general manager who he said handled those affairs.
“The one who took the most care of that team was Darryl Porter. I was just assisting him to make sure the books and everything else was OK” Lavault said.
Lavault insisted he did not have any connection to the team now.
On Thursday Sept. 15 his phone number which was used for the interview was still on the team Facebook page.
The team’s Facebook page called this an “oversight.”
The billet co-ordinator and trainer for the team Jenn Little said she wasn’t surprised the team wasn’t coming back.
Little and the team’s coach Josh Shaw were approached by Lavault informally to buy the team after the season ended.
“Josh and I both kind of looked at the pros and cons that we both put in and both for different personal reasons just decided we didn’t have that amount of time and energy or knowledge of running a hockey team ourselves to go forward with it. As much as we would have liked to see a team … we were burnt out to be honest. There was a lot of work involved” she said.
Lavault admits to looking for new owners but didn’t say he extended an offer to Little and Shaw who were both residing in the county then.
“I gave two names to the brother and don’t know what happened after that” he said.
He doesn’t remember what their names were offering one of them might be a “gentleman from the U.S.”
Little said her trainer role with the team was as a volunteer because there was never any payment.
Had she bought the team this season the team was going to join the new league the Canadian Premier Junior Hockey League.
Little did not know other potential suitors were asked to buy the team.
She did not get into specifics related to the management but thought the team was good for the community which anecdotally drew a little more than 100 people to its home games.
There is a positive side to the team which she wants to be highlighted. It was the players and how they were embraced and how they found a connection to the community. It’s something she won’t forget.
“It was great to be part of it. They were a good group of kids. That end of things it was a good experience. I wouldn’t say it was a negative experience in any way” she said.
Three players lived with Little while several others stayed with her while waiting for permanent accomdations. Knowing the team has officially folded she described as “bitter sweet.”
“In some situations there was perhaps a bitter taste in some people’s mouths throughout the community but on the other hand I think it was a good thing. The team was a good thing because it brought the community together in short to come out and watch those games on Thursday night.
Had they done better in the standings I think it would have been more well-received” she said.