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IceCaps to Winnipeg, Hamilton to St. John’s?

Manitoba MooseA report has the Winnipeg Jets (NHL) moving their AHL franchise, the St. John’s IceCaps, to MTS Centre next season, with the Montreal Canadians shifting their AHL team to St. John’s.

The Winnipeg Free Press is reporting the potential moves.

That the Jets have sought a new home for the IceCaps is no secret. True North Entertainment, which owns the Jets and owned the old AHL Manitoba Moose, moved the AHL team to St. John’s when the Jet came to town from Atlanta, and then leased the team to a local businessman. True North has pitched Thunder Bay on a new $106-million arena, with the carrot being an AHL team. But funding for the new Thunder Bay arena has not materialized, and with St. John’s being far from Winnipeg, it looks like the decision has been made to move the AHL team to MTS Centre for 2015-2016 and beyond. From the Free Press:

Last January, the Jets said that try though they did, the geography had become too problematic, especially in the case of recalling players, and they were looking for a more workable base for their AHL base.

At that time, True North had also confirmed it joined forces with several groups with a proposal to build a new 5,700-seat arena in downtown Thunder Bay, Ont. True North’s part of the deal was that it had agreed to provide a full-time hockey tenant for that facility, hoping to relocate its AHL team there, much closer to home….

All the way back to confirmation of its involvement in the Thunder Bay proposal, and likely earlier, True North has been exploring many options to bring its AHL affiliate into a more geographically friendly location, including Winnipeg on a temporary basis.

True North retained the name and marks, so a second coming of the Manitoba Moose makes sense.

Replacing the IceCaps, according to the Free Press report, would be Montreal’s AHL team, currently the Hamilton Bulldogs. This could be a temporary measure until a new 10,000-seat Laval arena opens.

This is not a surprise: there has been chatter about the Bulldogs ending up somewhere else, and there’s also been talk that the Erie Otters could end up moving to FirstOntario Centre. (This is not a done deal: Erie officials have been pitching other sports owners about potentially running the Otters if the team stayed in town.) From the Hamilton Spectator:

St. John’s IceCaps Chief Operating Officer Glenn Stanford — formerly the president of the Bulldogs – would not comment on the story or any parts of it. Bulldogs’ current president Steven Ostaszewicz said this was news to him.

“I don’t know anything about that,” Ostaszewicz said.

Several other questions about more-specific parts of the story — including a suggestion that a special meeting of the AHL board of governors was being convened next week to vote on the move — were all answered with, “I’m not aware.”

Here’s a statement from the Bulldogs:

“We are aware of the reports, but at this point nothing is official. We don’t want to add to the speculation with unconfirmed and inaccurate information. What we can tell you is that Michael Andlauer has been committed to our community, the fans and hockey in the city of Hamilton for over a decade and that will not change moving forward. We have no further comment at this time.”

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