The ECHL has officially approved an expansion team for St. John’s to begin playing next fall.

The league’s board announced Tuesday that the new St. John’s team will be owned by Deacon Investments Ltd., which is controlled by Dean MacDonald. Glenn Stanford, the long-time president of the city’s former American Hockey League franchise, will oversee team operations.

“We are pleased to welcome St. John’s to the ECHL,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “The city has a long and proud hockey history and, along with the Maine Mariners, will be strong additions to our North Division.”

Deacon Investments says the franchise is working on finalizing an affiliation agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Both Glenn and I are ecstatic that professional hockey is coming back to St. John’s. We believe that hockey fans in our city will welcome this great product,” Dean MacDonald said. “We look forward to working with St. John’s Edge owners Irwin Simon and Rob Sabbagh, along with the city, to bring two amazing sports entities together. This strong partnership will elevate professional sports in Newfoundland and provide many nights of action-packed entertainment for the community.”

The franchise will work in co-ordination with the St. John’s Edge basketball team, which also plays out of Mile One Centre.

“We are excited about being part of the St. John’s community with the success of The Edge Basketball team. We are equally excited to now play a role in the new hockey team and ultimately running Mile One and the Convention Centre.” said Rob Sabbagh, co-partner of Atlantic Sports Enterprises, which owns the Edge. “We want to thank the mayor, council and St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, and management for their support. We look forward to working with Glenn and Dean on these projects.”

Simon and MacDonald acknowledged the role that Mayor Danny Breen played in bringing both parties together over the last couple of weeks to secure the partnership.

“The city has been actively working with both parties over the past few months in pursuing this agreement and we are very pleased to have a memorandum of understanding in place with two excellent partners that will see hockey, basketball and many new event opportunities for Mile One,” said Breen. “As indicated in the MOU, we will now have the opportunity to work towards a management agreement for the buildings which we hope will attract even more events and lower the cost to taxpayers while creating economic benefit for the downtown.”

The team name, logo and franchise web site will be unveiled in the coming weeks along with season ticket and corporate partnership information.