Relatives feel snubbed by MHL in naming of EastLink Division
AMHERST - Members of the Bent family are disappointed with the Maritime Junior Hockey League's decision to remove their father's name from its Nova Scotia division.
Jim Bent, who has been active in the league as an owner and partner in franchises in Amherst and Halifax, said Thursday he received a "courtesy" call from league executives telling him the Maurice Bent Division was being renamed the EastLink Division as part of a sponsorship agreement between the 11-team circuit and the communications company.
"I received a courtesy call from the league, but was never asked permission. I appreciate the call, but I'm still disappointed the league chose to take dad's name off the division," Bent said. "I can understand where they're coming from, though. If it was done because the league needed the money for financial stability and viability, I'm sure my father would have understood if he were still alive. It's still disappointing though."
In an Amherst Daily News story earlier this week, league president Derryl Smith was quoted as saying the Bent family had been contacted and supported the decision.
Late last week, the league announced the name change effective immediately and indicated a sponsorship agreement is close for the league's other division, the Roger Meek Division.
Maurice Bent was an Amherst lawyer, who founded the Amherst Junior Ramblers franchise in 1967. He also wrote the constitution and bylaws of the former Metro Valley Junior Hockey League, which eventually formed into today's loop.
"In 1994, when the league chose to name the division after dad we were all really honoured," Bent said. "It's been a source of pride in the family since then."
Bent said he has received calls from friends saying the family should fight the league, but he's not sure it would do any good.
Bent's brother George is more adamant. He didn't know about the name change until earlier this week.
"I didn't know anything about it. A friend of mine asked me about it and I said 'about what?'" he said. "I was shocked and surprised because it meant a lot to us."
Smith has said the league plans to name some of its top awards after people like Maurice Bent, but George said he's not sure if naming a trophy after his father would be the same as having a division in his honour. He said he has no issue with EastLink and suggested the division could carry both names.
"I can't understand why they didn't call it the Bent-EastLink Division or the EastLink Bent Division," he said.
Walter Maltby, who was the first manager of the Ramblers, said he is also disappointed with the change.
"It's a real kick in the pants to the family and the Ramblers. Considering what he did for the league in those early years to get it off the ground, this is a lack of respect," Maltby said. "I don't think the younger people running the league today understand what he did for the league."
Smith said Thursday the league still intends to honour Bent sometime later this season and added the league did its due diligence with the Bent family.
"Things change and move on," he said. "Unfortunately we're in an era where there needs to be sponsorship to make things viable. We talked to the family. If they had been upset about it or didn't want it to happen we would've had to re-evaluate it and bring it back to the board."