NORWALK -- It was a three-year process, but the Connecticut Barons finally have been accepted as full-time members of the Connecticut Hockey Conference.
The Barons' latest application was approved by the CHC membership during a vote at last Wednesday's monthly meeting.
A two-thirds majority was needed to elevate the Barons to full membership status and the Barons received that, though just barely.
The vote was 22-6 -- 68.5 percent -- in favor with one abstention and three members not casting ballots.
"The Barons look forward to being full members of the CHC and upholding all the standards of the CHC," club president Stephen Ehrlich said on the Barons' website. "The development of all players is our primary focus and we look forward to doing that as part of the CHC."
CHC president Gerald Rasmussen could not be reached Sunday night.
The Barons, who were established in 2013 and play at the SoNo Ice House in South Norwalk where they share the facility with the Connecticut Oilers, now will be afforded the same privileges as all the other full members of the CHC.
The approval allows the Barons' Midget and girls teams to play at a Tier 1 or 2 level while their Bantam and below squads can compete at Tier 2, 3 or 4.
The biggest benefit, however, is that the Barons now will be able to participate in the CHC's Tier 2 or Tier 3 state tournaments, which means they would be eligible to move on to regional, sectional and national tournaments.
The Barons played last season as an allied member after their application for full status was rejected by a 13-14 vote with two abstentions and three other programs not casting a vote.
This time, the Barons receieved nine more "Yes" votes and eight less "No" votes.
A roll call of the vote was not immediately available, but last year nine of 10 Fairfield County-based organizations voted against the Barons while the rest of the state voted 12-5 in favor.
That led to speculation that other area programs were colluding against the Barons.
A year ago, the only Fairfield County program to vote in favor of the Barons was Western Connecticut Youth Hockey of Danbury.
Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Greater Bridgeport, Greenwich Blues, Greenwich Skating Club, Mid-Fairfield and Wonderland all voted against the Barons.
Sources with knowledge of the CHC and the voting process told the Hour at the time that many voters wanted to see another season of growth by the Barons before allowing full membership status.
The last program to join the CHC as a full-time member -- the Bridgeport-based Wonderland Wizards -- did so after a two-year probationary membership, similiar to what the Barons faced.
Also on the Barons' website, Ehrich sent out "special thanks" to Stamford Youth Hockey President John Nilsen for his support.
The Stamford Sharks were believed to have been instrumental in swaying some votes in lower Fairfield County.
"We look forward to many years of competitive battles all within 10 miles," Ehrlich said.
The Barons had 110 skaters during their initial season and that number grew to close to 200 last season with the addition of two Midget teams and a Little Barons' program for 5-and 6-year-olds.
They field squads in five age groups -- Mites, Squits, Pee Wees, Bantams and Midgets.
"The Barons long forward to their long-term relationship with SoNo Ice House," Ehrlich added.