At the blink of an eye, the American Hockey League was bounced from St. John’s. The IceCaps fell to the Syracuse Crunch in overtime Friday night ending their season and the league’s 20 years in the province.
Monday, the players cleared out their lockers leaving Mile One Centre empty to a major tenant for the first time in six years.
Next season Montreal’s farm team will play in Laval under the new name “Rocket”. The move brings prospects closer to their affiliate, a trend that has hurt St. John’s chances at retaining professional hockey.
“I think what’s important to look at is the management in Montreal,” stated head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “They’ll be able to see a lot more games and be more in tuned with what’s going on with the prospects.”
For the players, it’s just another move to another city. It’s the business. Hamilton to St. John’s to their next stop, Laval. For the front office, many from Newfoundland and Labrador, the future isn’t as certain as many are left hunting for jobs.
“It’s front office, it’s the 50-75 part-time arena workers,” said COO Glenn Stanford. “No hockey affects a lot of people. Even the downtown businesses used to four to five thousand fans pouring out of Mile One on weekends.”
So what’s next for Mile One Centre and St. John’s hockey? Rumours have swirled that a junior franchise could return. QMJHL pre-season kicks off late August and with nothing sticking for Stanford’s group yet, a 2017-18 season at Mile One looks bleak.
“We’re looking. But right now we don’t have anything and we don’t have anything for the near future,” admitted Stanford. “Although we are in constant contact with the league and working really hard to find a replacement.”
The QMJHL had a short three year stay in St. John’s, housing the Fog Devils. The rebound relationship from the St. John’s Maple Leafs didn’t flourish as hoped leaving a stigma to junior hockey in the province.
“The past doesn’t equal the future,” stated an optimistic Glenn Stanford. “I wasn’t a part of junior hockey when it was here last. If I didn’t think it was going to be a success, I wouldn’t want to be a part of it.”