Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/3/2015 (2342 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Approval for the shift of the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL franchise back to Winnipeg for this fall looks to be only days away.
The AHL’s board of governors is believed to be convening this week, likely Thursday, for a vote on two transfer proposals.
One will have the Jets’ farm team relocate from St. John’s, N.L., where it now plays as the St. John’s IceCaps, back to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre. To fill that void in St. John’s for the 2015-16 season, the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens are proposing to transfer their AHL franchise from Hamilton to the N.L. capital.
True North Sports & Entertainment, which owns the NHL’s Jets and the AHL’s IceCaps, will have to change the name of the IceCaps. It could simply rebrand the team the Manitoba Moose, the identity it used for its IHL and AHL franchise between 1996 and 2011 but there’s no guarantee that would be the AHL team’s name in Winnipeg for the second go-round.
Since the Free Press reported Saturday on the likely moves, the story has been met with a rash of "no comment."
True North had no comment whatsoever on the matter, senior director of corporate communications Scott Brown said on the weekend.
In St. John’s, there was no word from team CEO Danny Williams, who owns the business that runs the IceCaps there, nor from COO Glenn Stanford. Stanford, it should be noted, has a long career as a top AHL executive and was in that position with the AHL’s Bulldogs prior to 2011.
In Hamilton, the Bulldogs issued the folowing statement Saturday:
"We are aware of the reports but at this point nothing is official. We don’t want to add to the speculation with unconfirmed and inaccurate information. What we can tell you is that Michael Andlauer has been committed to our community, the fans and hockey in the city of Hamilton for over a decade and that will not change moving forward. We have no further comment at this time."
The Hamilton Spectator sought comment from Andlauer, the Bulldogs’ owner and also a minority owner of the Canadiens, as well as from the Canadiens but got little, including no denials, from either party.
The Jets’ interest in relocating their AHL franchise to a location that’s less logistically challenging is well-known. After an initial three-year lease to Williams and his group when the NHL relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers brought the Jets to Winnipeg in 2011, one that caused the Moose to relocate to St. John’s and become the IceCaps, True North has granted two one-year extensions. The second of those was to run through 2015-16.
But in January 2014, True North executive chairman Mark Chipman confirmed his organization was looking for a better location for its AHL team and that he had become part of a group proposing a new 5,700-seat arena in downtown Thunder Bay, Ont.
Chipman had pledged his AHL team as a main tenant if the proposed $106-million facility would be built. Ground has not yet been broken and though financial help from governments has been applied for, it has not yet been granted.
There’s a hard deadline of the end of this month for that deal, which is aimed at getting the project completed by September, 2017.
There has been no information to contradict the idea an AHL team returning to Winnipeg is anything but temporary. The Jets continue to search for a long-term and more-suitable location for their team and Thunder Bay is just one option.
Temporary also describes the Canadiens’ likely move to St. John’s. The Habs are connected to a 10,000-seat arena to be built in the Montreal suburb of Laval, one that could be ready in two or three years. That’s the likely long-range home for the club’s AHL farm team.
But what the double-transfer being proposed this week does is buy both the Jets and St. John’s more time to finalize more permanent solutions.
Andlauer appears to be the key domino for the timing of this multi-domino story. He holds the Bulldogs’ brand name and lease for the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton and has pledged to keep a team in that downtown arena.
Whether it’s an AHL or major-junior Ontario Hockey League team isn’t certain, but speculation is strong he’s got a line on an OHL club to move to the Steel City.