Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

They're hockey happy on The Rock

IceCaps an instant hit as AHL comes back

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ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- Call it Winnipeg East or Mini Winnipeg, but St. John's is a hockey town.

The return of the AHL to Newfoundland is in full swing and today's Hockeyville game between the Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators has this picturesque seaside town all abuzz.

"The whole country got caught up in the return of the NHL to Winnipeg and we got to join that ride and momentum," said St. John's IceCaps COO Glenn Stanford. "We're happy to be known as Mini Winnipeg right now because it fits. Winnipeg got the NHL back and then they made a tough decision and brought the AHL back to St. John's."

Stanford says folks here have the same feeling as hockey fans in Winnipeg, and all 6,275 seats will be full Monday.

"The buzz here has been the same as in Winnipeg. It's amazing the energy here and the talk about the AHL coming back," said Stanford. "Now, to have our parent team here to play an NHL game just two weeks before our home opener, it's really kicking things off for us."

The AHL left St. John's in 2005. Stanford moved on too, but left his heart on The Rock. The new St. John's club allows the former local basketball and soccer star to return to his old turf, where he ran the St. John's Maple Leafs for 14 years.

"I went to Idaho for a few years and then worked for the Hamilton Bulldogs for five years. I hoped the AHL would come back. Whenever a team would move, I'd bring up St. John's at our board level, but I wasn't sure it would ever happen," he said.

Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger were key to the move, Stanford said.

"Mark Chipman came to our board when he brought the IHL teams into the AHL and he was immediately an important member. Over the years, Mark Chipman and Craig Heisinger grew to have great respect and influence with our board," Stanford said. "Not just anyone could have made this move happen. These guys have weight with our board and they were able to use it."

Stanford says hockey in St. John's is similar to Winnipeg, in that a ticket is tough to get.

"We've sold over 5,000 season tickets and our suites are almost all gone," he said. "We haven't even put our single-game tickets on sale yet. It looks like we'll be sold out for the whole year too."

He says there's a real comfort in working with the Jets.

"All those guys -- Zinger (Heisinger), Mark (Chipman) and Chevy (GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) -- have been in the American league and know what it's like. The biggest thing about them is they're about people. They're good people and easy to work with. We couldn't have a better partner," Stanford said.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2011 C2

History

Updated on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 9:12 AM CDT: Fixes art.

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