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This article was published 6/7/2011 (3119 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Jets aren’t the only hockey team returning home this fall.
After a one-year stint in St. Adolphe, the Winnipeg Saints of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League will call the St. James Civic Centre home this coming season.
David Anning, the club’s head coach and general manager, said the Saints simply didn’t draw enough fans in St. Adolphe last season.
"We were hoping that St. Adolphe would work out for the better after leaving Dakota (Community Centre)," Anning said. "Unfortunately, the attendance numbers made things a little difficult."
Anning said when the opportunity arose to play in the Civic Centre — which he called a "real junior A facility" — the club was eager to make it happen.
That’s despite the fact the Saints have traditionally been a team based in the south and east of the city.
"The reality is in that part of the city there’s not a lot of junior-ready facilities," Anning said. "This is a positive step for the organization."
The move will also bring two longtime MJHL rivals back within shouting distance of one another. The Winnipeg Blues, who used to call Century Arena home, moved into the MTS Iceplex last year.
"There’s always been a rivalry," said Anning. "Back before we were 10 minutes apart, and now it’s quite similar but in the West End of the city."
Many of the players on both teams have grown up playing hockey together — both as teammates and opponents — which will make for an intense eight-game regular season series.
MJHL commissioner Kim Davis said the move is a positive one for his league. The Civic Centre provides ideal facilities for the team and its fans, Davis said.
"It’s not just good for the home team, but the visiting teams as well that come to play the games here," Davis added.
With the move into the Civic Centre, the Saints will be playing in the home of another former foe, the defunct St. James Canadians.
"There was definitely a rivalry with the Canadians, especially in the late ’90s and early 2000s," Anning said. "Unfortunately, when they folded it left a hole in area. Hopefully we can help fill that."
The league has no plans to alter the designated areas from which teams are allowed to protect top prospects this season, but will look at potential changes if the move becomes permanent.
That means the Saints will be able to protect two players from southeast Winnipeg before the next MJHL draft.
Anning said the Saints want to be playing at the Civic Centre long-term, but the current deal is for one year.
When fans come out to see the Saints this fall, they’ll see a team that finished third in the Addison Division last season. Ten players have moved on, but Anning said a solid core of veterans is returning.
"We’ve added a lot of talented younger players," he said. "I like our group, and I think we’re very skilled and play a fairly exciting brand of hockey."