IceCaps Floating Away to Thunder Bay

In just their third year as an organization, the St. John’s IceCaps look to split town after next season (2014-2015). The ‘IceCaps’ name will remain in St. John’s as a trademark, but True North Sports And Entertainment along with the Winnipeg Jets organization have decided to possibly relocate the team to a brand new arena in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Jets Owner Mark Chipman told the Winnipeg Free Press that the earliest the team would move would be for the 2016-2017 season, but says it’s more likely to be the 2017-18 season. The city of Thunder Bay has yet to construct the proposed 5700 seat arena, so the team may relocate for a short period of time to Winnipeg. He cited that geography and logistics are the reasons behind the move.

President and CEO of the IceCaps Danny Williams is already exploring options and opportunities to bring another team to St. John’s. The problem is, he can’t go out and create or purchase a team, the team has to be affiliated with an NHL club and all spots are currently filled.

So who could fill the hockey void and keep AHL alive in St. John’s?

The team would have to be:

  • In the Eastern Conference, to make geography favour the relocation, and
  • Have a current lease expiring within the next few years

That narrows it down to: the Binghamton Senators and Albany Devils.

And here’s why I think either team could be in St. John’s in either 2015-16 or 2016-17:

  1. Current lease agreements between AHL teams and their arenas canceled out a number of teams, but the Devils lease at the Times Union Center in Albany and the Sens lease with the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena both expire at the end of next season.
  2. Chipman said that geography played a huge part in the decision. Flights from St. John’s Intl. Airport to just about everywhere are expensive, and to make things worse the Jets are in the Western Conference. When IceCaps players are called up, they head out west, possibly Anaheim, Los Angeles or Phoenix; a great expense by any means. And perhaps it’s just one game followed by a return flight. The first two seasons were not as bad as the Jets were in the Eastern Conference, which meant shorter and cheaper flights from St. John’s. The NHL affiliates of Albany and Binghamton, the New Jersey Devils and Ottawa Senators, are in the Eastern Conference, with direct flights from St. John’s to Newark Liberty Intl. Airport and Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier Intl. Airport running daily that are around 3 hours in length. Compare that to seven and a half hours to Winnipeg. Talk about saving time and money.
  3. Poor attendance. The Devils home arena has a full capacity of 14 236, yet they’re averaging just over 2900 each game this year; third worst in the league. The Senators do not fair much better, as their attendance is eighth worst in the league. Bringing the Devils or Senators to St. John’s will create better revenue not only for the American Hockey League, but for the affiliates in the NHL.

I’ll just leave this here for you…19-St.-Johns-Fog-Devils-QMJHL

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