It seems like forever ago since the Sea Dogs and QMJHL teams made the occasional voyage to Newfoundland. With St. John's losing its AHL team, it's made many wonder: will junior hockey be making a return to St. John's soon?
This is from Wednesday's St. John's Telegram:
There probably won’t be a replacement team, in any league, here next season, although there is hope Glenn Stanford’s efforts will mean the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League becomes an option in 2018-19.On April 28, here's what The Telegram's Robin Short wrote:
If the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League doesn’t happen next year, look for a team in St. John’s two years from now.And here's what Brendan McCarthy wrote on April 30:
However, a willing buyer needs a willing seller and, as of yet, there hasn’t been a QMJHL team that has undeniably been made available for purchase. And the Q isn’t selling an expansion franchise as it did when the Fog Devils came here in 2005.While a lot of things need to come together, it seems like there is a lot of optimism that the QMJHL will be returning to The Rock somewhat soon.
It's looking like Mile One Centre will be without high-level hockey for the 2017-18 season, which may be a good thing for the market, long-term. The Montreal Canadians are moving the AHL's IceCaps to a new rink in Laval - ironically just a short drive from the Armada's rink.
There are plenty of hurdles to having a QMJHL team in Newfoundland, obviously. There needs to be a buyer. There needs to be a seller. There has to be a solution to financing travel. That arena lease issue thing the Fog Devils had needs to be looked at. These are some significant hurdles, but at the same time, St. John's is a huge market with an arena worthy of hosting a Memorial Cup. It's hard to imagine the league not wanting to capitalize on those opportunities.
It's also been a bit of a weird time in the QMJHL, as there seems to be no team that has been struggling with ownership or finances enough (publicly, anyways) that relocation is required. But that could always change very quickly, as we've seen in the past (see: Lewiston Maineiacs, 2011). It's unlikely the league expands anytime soon, so relocation is looking like the only option for a St. John's team.
Ironically, there will be plenty of eyes watching the attendance numbers of the old Fog Devils, the Armada, over the next few years. The Laval AHL team will be playing close by and is much easier to access by public transit (it's across the street from a metro stop). You'd hate to see a team move, obviously, but, y'know, that's how it goes.
Anyways, all this is speculation. We'll no doubt start hearing QMJHL-to-St-John's rumours a lot over the next year - or however long it takes.