Friday, June 2, 2017

QMJHL's return to St. John's seems likely

SAINT JOHN - The QMJHL's return to Newfoundland is becoming more of a question of "when" rather then "if."

RDS' Stephane Leroux reported yesterday that there is a group in St. John's working to bring a team back to Newfoundland, which would be a first since the Fog Devils (RIP) left for Verdun in 2008.

At the league's annual press conference, held this afternoon in Saint John, commissioner Gilles Courteau confirmed that St. John's is interested in getting back into the league and that a group has been formed to evaluate the application.

Leroux reported that Courteau has met with Newfoundland labour officials regarding the class against lawsuit against the CHL and the classifying of players as amateurs. That's certainly not the only issue surrounding St. John's, as costs - particularly travel - are obviously a concern.

But the biggest issue at the moment seems to be what team will relocate to St. John's?

Courteau said on Friday that the league will not expand to 19 teams, which makes sense. The only option for St. John's is relocation, and, at this time anyways, there is no obvious team knocking on death's door. But, as we saw with Lewiston (RIP), that can change and become public in a hurry. Even for a team that's struggling but doing ok, the St. John's group could make a purchasing offer that would be hard to refuse.

If there's any team reaching the point of impending doom, it seems to be the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, which is ironically the former Fog Devils franchise. The team's attendance isn't great - but also not terrible. Laval getting an AHL team this season could cause problems though and there are issues surrounding Quebecor owning a majority of both the Armada and Quebec Remparts franchises.

It sucks to see a team move, but it will happen at some point. And the destination seems very likely to be Newfoundland.

Some other league notes...

  • There will be a Winter Classic in Drummondville this January featuring the Voltigeurs taking on the Victoriaville Tigres and Sherbrooke Phoenix.
  • Shawinigan will host the 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft.
  • Shawinigan will also host an outdoor game during the 2018-19 season as part of the 50th anniversary of the club and league.
  • There's still discussions going on between the NHL and QMJHL/OHL about the Gatineau Olympiques and Ottawa 67's playing outdoors at TD Place this December. The two teams have scheduled two interleague games against each other this season.
  • Courteau mentioned New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant's letter, which requested the league change its name in to include the Maritimes (which CTV reported a while back). It doesn't sound like much has happened with that request yet (if anything will).
  • With the league likely returning to Newfoundland soon, swapping the 'M' in QMJHL from Major to Maritimes, which many fans have suggested, is not an option. If the league is to change its name, it will have to be something completely different. 
  • Le Soleil brings up an interesting point - there's a lot of 20-year-old players looking to fill rosters spots this season.
  • Quebec Hebdo has a good rundown of today's press conference.

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