Junior B hockey is back
BRIAN THOMPSON, The Expositor Paul Polillo (left), Ken Lindsay, Mike Spadafora, Darren DeDobbelaer and Scott Rex comprise the ownership group for Brantford's new junior B hockey team, which will start play in September at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre.
Junior B hockey is coming back to Brantford.
"We're extremely excited," said Paul Polillo, who will act as the team's president.
"This process has been going on since August. That's when we put this group together.
"There's been a lot of hurdles, a lot of meetings and a lot of work. Finally to get the news, we're really excited."
Scott Rex, Mike Spadafora, Ken Lindsay and Darren DeDobbelaer will be the other members of the ownership group along with Polillo, who received news of the team's approval from the Ontario Hockey Association on Thursday morning.
Rex will be head coach, while Spadafora will be the general manager.
"There's five of us that are together who are really going to work hard at this," said Polillo. "We're willing to put the time in. Hopefully, we can get everybody to rally around it"
The team, which will begin its season in September in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League's Mid-Western Conference, will play out of the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre. It has yet to be determined on what nights games will take place.
This team fills the void created when the Brantford Golden Eagles moved out of the city at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season. The former Golden Eagles now play out of Caledonia as the Pro-Fit Corvairs.
Polillo said there's no reason a city the size of Brantford should be without a junior hockey team.
"We decided to do it because we thought our community deserved to have a Junior B team," he said. "We have a brand new, state of the art arena. We have the support of our mayor (Chris Friel), who helped us out a lot in this process. We have the support of the Gretzky centre.
"We're very proud to be from Brantford and we think it should have a team. We're willing to do the work to work with our community to make it happen."
Polillo has strong ties to junior B hockey in this city.
In the early 1980s, Polillo's father, Guy, owned the junior B Classics.
Paul remembers playing on that team.
"The thing for me growing up in Brantford, I always idolized the junior B team as a place I wanted to get to after Brantford Minor Hockey," he said. "That was one of my stepping stones," said Paul.
"That was taken away from our local kids and I think that now that it's back it will make major midget a much more crucial year because kids know they have somewhere to go after that. It's not the end of the line.
"I think one of the greatest moments for me in my hockey career was when I left Brantford Minor and I played my first Junior B hockey game and Ken Crabb Jr. gave me a brand new Titan hockey stick.
"I thought it was the greatest thing in the world that I got to play on a team where they gave free hockey sticks. It's something I still remember."
Polillo's father continued to run the team into the 1990s while Paul went down his own path, playing for Western Michigan University before embarking on a professional career that also included time with the Brantford Smoke and the Brantford Blast.
Polillo will make use of the contacts he's made during his hockey career - as will the other four owners. However, he said that it will take more than just those contacts to make the team a success.
"We want to make this a community team," he said. "We want people to come out and feel a part of it. We want to get as many volunteers involved as possible.
"It's going to take a lot of people and a lot of time to make this happen. The more people can feel connected to this team, the more I think it's going to work."
Volunteers will be needed for things such as a team website, pre-game setup and game-time operations.
Polillo said the owners don't see the team as a moneymaker.
"We're really going to be counting on the community to help us out here," he said.
"We're not looking to put money in our pockets. Whatever money we raise is going to go towards the hockey team. The more money we get, the more things there's going to be for the kids.
"What we're trying to do is make a great place for kids to play Junior B hockey."
Fans and players will get their first look at prospective team members in late May when a rookie camp is held. One of the main goals of the ownership group is to have a strong working relationship with the Brantford Minor Hockey Association so its players can move on to the next level.
"We want to get our players out in the community," Polillo said. "We want to have a working relationship with Brantford Minor Hockey where we get some of their kids out to practices so they get to know some of the players and interact with them. Hopefully they'll have a connection with the players and want to come out and watch the games."
Polillo said he's hoping the junior team can go right back into the Thursday and Saturday night game slots the Golden Eagles used to have. However, that will have to be discussed with the league.
Despite some published media reports about the team already having a name, Polillo said that hasn't been confirmed.
The team has an idea of what it would like to be called but first the owners want to approach the proper people to determine whether the name will work.
One of the reasons cited for the old Golden Eagles leaving was the dressing room facilities. Polillo said he and his group are more than happy with the Gretzky Centre.
"We're great with it," he said. "The Gretzky centre is a great facility. We're really looking forward to working with them. It's been nothing but positive."
While the team has ironed out some of the things it needs to do, there's lots more to accomplish before the season begins in about six months.
"We've got tons of work to do," said Polillo.
"We have some things already organized. We've been in talks with the Gretzky Centre. There's no problem getting ice or dressing rooms or our offices. We have that all organized.
"The biggest thing right now is trying to put a competitive team together and get the support of our community."
This announcement is huge for the community but the owners want it clear they are doing this for one reason - the players.
"Our biggest thing is we're doing this for the right reasons," said Polillo. "We want to promote Brantford kids.
"We want people to want to come here. We want to help them get to the next level. We're going to do things for the right reasons."
At a glance
The new ownership group of Brantford's junior B hockey team comprises:
• Paul Polillo, president - attended Western Michigan University on scholarship; played in the International Hockey League, Colonial Hockey League (United Hockey League) and in the Ontario Hockey Association Senior A (Allan Cup Hockey) league.
• Scott Rex, head coach - played with the Brantford Alexanders (Junior A); attended Ohio State University on scholarship; played and coached professionally in Europe; coached the Brantford Golden Eagles to a Sutherland Cup provincial Junior B championship in 2009.
• Mike Spadafora, general manager - former junior B assistant coach with Rex.
• Ken Lindsay, part owner - founder of Mortgage Financial Corp. in Hamilton.
• Darren DeDobbelaer, part owner - current coach, general manager and president of the Simcoe Storm junior C hockey team.
Want to know more?
For more information on volunteering with Brantford's new junior B hockey team or for players interested in attending the rookie camp, call Paul Polillo at 519-754-8744.
Will you support the new junior B hockey team?