Williams not surprised IceCaps could leave St. John’s

Robin
Robin Short
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St. John’s IceCaps president and CEO Danny Williams isn’t surprised the Winnipeg Jets have all but signed on the dotted line to move their American Hockey League franchise — currently the St. John’s IceCaps — to Thunder Bay, Ont.

Tuesday at Thunder Bay City Hall, a group headed by former NHL coach and broadcaster Gary Green announced it had Winnipeg’s True North Sports and Entertainment — owners of the Jets and IceCaps — on board as a partner in a proposed new $106.1 million event centre.

True North CEO Mark Chipman was not in Thunder Bay for the announcement, but issued the following statement: “True North Sports and Entertainment and the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club are excited about the prospect of operating our American Hockey League franchise in Thunder Bay. We are well aware of the community’s rich hockey tradition and are confident that Thunder Bay would be a great location to develop our future prospects.”

CLICK HERE for video of statement by Mark Chipman.

“It wasn’t a surprise,” Williams said of the announcement. “We knew the process was under way.

“I’m not shocked, I’m not pissed off, I’m not upset. I’m disappointed the Jets could leave the city, but by the same token, it’s not something we had no idea was coming.

“I’m not sitting up here bouncing off the walls saying ‘Oh geez, this is lovely, they backhanded us.’ We had full knowledge all the way through what the deal was: instead of three years, we got four and they couldn’t guarantee five. And we’ve been working on getting six for the last six months.

“But once we realized the renewal wasn’t coming easily, we started to look elsewhere, which is exactly what we’re doing.”

The IceCaps arrived on the scene in 2011-12 with Williams signing a three-year deal to lease the AHL club from the Jets. After Year 1, the contract was extended another year meaning the current deal expires following the 2014-15 season.

While the partnership between Green’s group and True North was announced in Thunder Bay, construction has yet to start on the building. And Thunder Bay mayor Keith Hobbs cautioned Tuesday the provincial and federal governments must come through with a portion of the expected cost or the project is likely dead.

So Williams is hoping to keep the IceCaps in St. John’s past the 2014-15 season while the rink is constructed in northern Ontario, although there are unconfirmed reports the AHL franchise could play out of Winnipeg during the construction period.

“There’s no doubt, we’re fully prepared to honoured the next year and a half of this contract,” Williams said.

“But from my own perspective, I’m quite prepared to go out and buy a franchise, too. If a franchise is available, I’m prepared to buy it to keep professional sport here in the city.

“This has been so good for the city and province, I’d go out and try and buy a franchise. It’s a big step and a big undertaking, but I would actually do that.”

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

 

 

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(Earlier story)

 

St. John’s IceCaps team to move to Ontario: report

A report out of Thunder Bay, Ont. today says a group in that city has reached an agreement with Winnipeg's True North Sports and Entertainment to partner in the construction of a proposed $106.1 million events centre in Thunder Bay.

As part of the partnership, True North will move its American Hockey League team — currently the St. John's IceCaps — to Thunder Bay once the building is completed.

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Organizations: American Hockey League

Geographic location: Ontario, St. John's, Thunder Bay

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Recent comments

  • Ed Edmunds
    January 23, 2014 - 22:09

    Looks good on you Danny. Go buy another 3 year team. BTW. There's still Newfoundlanders working in Alberta.

  • Dave Smith
    January 22, 2014 - 13:58

    I feel bad for you fans of the Ice Caps. But welcome the the world of True North Sports and Entertainment. It's all about the $$$ for them. Not sure how much of the team they own but I'm guessing they'll own the Thunder Bay team. I'm guessing they get a brand new free arena and a sweetheart lease and a few cheaper flights from Thunder Bay.

  • Ibitz
    January 21, 2014 - 22:20

    The Ice Caps get a really respectable 6287 per game according to Hockey Database, yet you're going to lose your team. Out here in BC, the Abbotsford Heat have the worst attendance in the AHL at 2500 per game and the team will probably be here for years.

  • Marshall Art
    January 21, 2014 - 18:57

    By the way, by's, it's the IceCaps, not IceCapps. And you think 6,000 people are gonna fill Mile One every game to watch the old NAHA hockey and St. John's Caps , after watching AHL hockey ? They were the good ol' days, this is 2014 and the venue is not the old Memorial Stadium.

  • Chris
    January 21, 2014 - 18:17

    Bring in an NHL team danny! We have the numbers...we can support one!! You'll only have the same problem with other AHL teams if you bring in another one.

  • SayWhat
    January 21, 2014 - 18:13

    I'm going to be very frank. I watched the news conference today and all I saw was a man (Gary Green) lobbying to be the next GM of the Winnipeg Jets. The only one he didn't mention on this committee was Joe the Barber. This group will lobby government for funding. Back in 2011, the cost was 80 million dollars. Today its over 100 million. Right now the Federal Government is not in the business of building sports arenas. So where are they going to get the money? Make no mistake, True North is moving, but not to Thunder Bay. Try Saskatoon, Winnipeg or Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

  • Guy Incognito
    January 21, 2014 - 17:45

    poor King Danny......he is throwing a temper tantrum........

  • You're Surprised?
    January 21, 2014 - 16:56

    I really don't see how anyone would be surprised at this. We have, by comparison, a tiny center for events/hockey teams, compared to other major cities across the Country.

  • Huck
    January 21, 2014 - 16:39

    The Ice Caps are nothing more than the Leafs part 2. It would have been far better to support the Fog Devils until they could get established as a competitive team. Major Jr hockey is much more entertaining than the AHL. You only have to look at the attendance numbers in other cities in Atlantic Canada that dumped their AHL teams and brought in franchises from the Q. The Q draws in the thousands; the AHL draws in the hundreds.

  • Mindy
    January 21, 2014 - 16:36

    It is disappointing but if there is a way to get another team -- go for it. Love going to the games. As far as NAHA yes it is good hockey but not what some are looking for and price dropping is not possible with the expenses to even to open Mile One Bldg. To the people who think that the hockey does not benifit anyone other than the City of St. John's, is wrong. Hotels are booked with people from outside the city, restarants are booked, taxis are busy. etc. The spin off for example would be the university students that work in these industries while attending school here from other parts of the province, it helps subsidize their education. Mile One has had a full house since the beginning - which also provides employment for many You have to look outside the box!

  • Guy Incognito
    January 21, 2014 - 16:11

    The castle that King Danny built is tumbling down. His hockey team is leaving, his former party is floudering, and the person he left in charge is facing a mutany.....poor Danny.....

  • Norm Peterson, Winnipeg
    January 21, 2014 - 15:39

    I would hope that the Icecaps would stay in St. John's and that the Jets would swap AHL affiliates with an eastern team whose farm team is not a successful as the Icecaps. The hockey fans of St. John's have supported this team phenomenally and they deserve to keep AHL hockey. New Jersey, Philadelphia and Ottawa all have farm teams that can't draw flies. Not that I would wish the Flyer's prospects on the good hockey fans from the rock, but any of those three teams might like to take up an affiliation with St. John's and the Jets could then move their farm team to Thunder Bay

  • Johnny Cash Cow
    January 21, 2014 - 15:14

    Look for taxes to rise to help cover the cost of an empty stadium in the near future. Charley Pride, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan all said they aren't coming back for the 93rd time. That said, a few more crooners will soon be in old age pension territory so they'll be looking for a gig here. Perhaps we can get something sensible in the stadium today, someone playing that actually wants to advance in hockey and not lifelong minor leaguers. Sure the stadium sells out, but are the seats filled every night? NO. Why? Corporate seats. Call it what you will, it's a night out for the "Look at Me's" downtown. Add in someone that we can actually see if they get called up. Who follows the Winnipeg Jets? Not since the days of Don't Panic Yanic and Felix the Cat have NL'ers really followed what we had playing in front of us. Mile One is a cash cow for the city, at $26-28 per ticket to see hockey, it's scandalous. Who remembers paying $9-14 for Leafs tickets at the old lady on the Lake? Yes times have changed, but here's hoping we get a Quebec Major Jr. team back with the right people running the team. Yes it failed, but the Dobbins ran the team, they knew just as much about hockey as Paul Lane knows about trimming his moustache. Danny has deep pockets, but can he convince a Q team to relocate here? I'm sure many NL'ers would rather go and watch Jr. hockey with players from NL that actually want to get somewhere. We didn't give it a chance last time, the team moved to where? Montreal, what happened, they finished 2nd, 2nd, and 1st the next three seasons. Jr. hockey runs in 3-4 year cycles. Much like this AHL team did.

  • GerryMartin
    January 21, 2014 - 14:57

    time for Danny to apologize to Robin Short for tearing a strip off RS for questioning on this topic months ago. Danny OTT once again.

  • yesnowJohn
    January 21, 2014 - 14:44

    yes now John, come on by, noone gonna pay more than $5 to see the St John's Caps, how old are you ya foolish thing. fill mile one, yes now

  • Steve
    January 21, 2014 - 14:23

    I have a lot of complaints about Dunderdale regarding Bill 29 and other things, but one of the best things she ever did early on was stand up to Danny and refuse to susidize the Ice Capps. I'd love to see an AHL team continue here, but I am against spending taxpayers money for it.

  • Steve
    January 21, 2014 - 14:21

    I have a lot of complaints about Dunderdale regarding Bill 29 and other things, but one of the best things she ever did early on was stand up to Danny and refuse to susidize the Ice Capps. I'd love to see an AHL team continue here, but I am against spending taxpayers money for it.

  • John
    January 21, 2014 - 14:18

    Why not just bring back the old NAHA and the St. John's Caps. You would fill the mile one....Cut the price a bit and lets have at it. I would be able to afford a season ticket again.

  • Bob
    January 21, 2014 - 14:17

    This is not uncommon in the realm of the AHL. Only a few years ago the Calder Cup winners were in a different city the next season. The biggest obstacle with St. John's is distance, and our location as an island. That being said, I truly believe we are a hockey town, and hopefully Danny can aquire a new team when and if Winnipeg moves out. The benefits of having a team in this city far outweight the negitives. Go Caps go!

  • peter barry
    January 21, 2014 - 14:08

    the only thing it was good for was st johns.most people of the avalon never cared about the team.

    • Jay
      January 22, 2014 - 03:51

      Peter, It certainly is good for St. John's, and we're helping to pay for it without huge handouts from government. We don't really care if petty, jealous, negative baymen don't support it. Why don't you just stay home, collect your unemployment cheque, and think of something else to be negative about. I'm sure you'll have no trouble because that's who you are.

    • Happily Retired
      January 22, 2014 - 07:28

      The people of St. John's and the surrounding, have supported, with their money and other efforts, this excellent franchise, with good teams, good players, and all around good entertainment. Yes, it is good for St. John's. What's your problem? Why don't you go back to sitting on you sofa, and piss and moan about something else. I can tell from your post that your not going to try to do anything proactively to help your own community.

  • JLee
    January 21, 2014 - 14:05

    That truly sucks!!! We actually have an AHL team return to this thriving city and adopt the team like it's our child. We "Stand Together" through a great first season, a struggling second season, a stronger, while inconsistent, third season and now - poof - they leave!!

  • Jon
    January 21, 2014 - 13:43

    Move one of the other teams in the league with poor attendance here. It will mean a city loses a team, but some teams only average around 2,000 people a game.

  • david
    January 21, 2014 - 13:32

    Do NOT interfere in this by shovelling more money at them. I know you can't help yourselves from bribing them with our money...again....but DO NOT.

    • Warren
      January 21, 2014 - 15:16

      This isn't about money in the least. The Winnipeg Jets have moved to the Western conference. So while in previous seasons the majority of theroad games were in the east, now more than ever see that having a farm team based in the Maritimes is causing difficulties due to the time it takes called up players to join the team. That's the long and short of it. Pure geography.

  • saelcove
    January 21, 2014 - 13:11

    And thats all you have to say, a little more info would be nice well danny boy

  • Ron Bursey
    January 21, 2014 - 13:05

    Amazing, terrible. Terrible Terrible