Blackburn Eagles’ Player/Coach Scott Barnett has hit out at Blackburn Ice Arena management after the club announced it was being forced to fold at the end of the season.
A statement on the Eagles’ official website says unaffordable changes to the club’s ice time contract and the implementation of unfair rules regarding advertising means the Laidler D2 champions have no other option than to call it a day.
The Eagles, who contain numerous players who’ve iced for Blackburn Hawks who play out of the same rink, won promotion this season having made rapid progress over the past few seasons.
Barnet says while the news is bad for the team, it hasn’t come as surprise.
“We expected an increase in ice costs, but what we have been presented with is unrealistic and has a purpose behind it,” he said.
“It has been a constant battle for the past few seasons on and off the ice – we have dealt with a number of things off the ice that could have been avoided. Things that people away from Blackburn have found hard to actually believe.
“There have been various rumours about our future making the rounds and in true Eagles fashion we have published the facts for all to see.
“It’s sad when you look down the team and see just how many of the players have dedicated numerous years to Blackburn Ice Hockey whether as a junior or senior player.
“We have not just been thrown together to satisfy a paying crowd. The team feel like they are being forced from their own rink.
“They feel that the arena management are scared of the success of the Eagles because we have come so far in such a short space of time.
“People have been very complimentary of the team for the past few years in the hockey community, the way it has been run, the dedication from the players and the continuous improvement, the development of young talent.
“Other teams have implemented their own versions of some of the things we have started. They obviously feel threatened – why else would they want to make things so difficult for a team that has paid a lot of money into the arena, not just on ice time but encouraging secondary spend.
“Personally I had stated to those close to me that this would likely be my last season coaching the team – this changed when we beat Widnes and Hull in the same weekend to secure the league title.
“I had conversations with the management team about next year and although nothing was finalised we had an eye on a busy summer to try and make it work, even if that meant finding the team a new head coach.
“That decision was made for me and for the players, a team of league champions that have worked hard for what they have earned and they now face an uncertain future in the sport.
“Nobody can take away what we have achieved, not just this year but previous seasons as well.
“The play-offs will be a true end of an era for those involved in the team and I would just like to personally thank everyone that has supported us and helped us get to this point, both myself and the players are extremely thankful for all the help we have received.”