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Hamilton: Goodbye AHL, hello OHL

Hamilton BulldogsWith a loss to the Lake Erie Monsters, the Hamilton Bulldogs ended their 19-season run in the American Hockey League, with the franchise moving to St. John’s and an Ontario Hockey League team on the way for the 2015-2016 season.

It’s a bittersweet end to Michael Andlauer‘s tenure as owner of the team, but you can’t say he didn’t work hard to make things work at cavernous FirstOntario Centre — the former Copps Coliseum seating 17,383 for hockey and 19,000 for concerts and other big events. Pro hockey has had a surprising rocky time in what should be a leading market, but more than once the city faced the lost of the Bulldogs, once in 2000 and again in 2003, when the Edmonton Oilers relocated their AHL team to Toronto. Andlauer brought together the local business community after buying the Bulldogs, but he threw in the towel earlier this year, selling the team back to the Canadiens — who simultaneously announced the Hamilton Bulldogs moving to St. John’s on a temporary basis until a new Laval arena opens — and buying the OHL’s Belleville Bulls.

The Bulldogs dropped that final home game, but the crowd of 10,000 gathered to mark the end of AHL hockey, per the Hamilton Spectator:

But the greatest part of the game wasn’t the montages. It was the Bulldogs’ faithful who came out in droves — more than 10,000 in all — for Hamilton’s final hurrah.

“It was nice to see so many people show up for that last game,” said forward Gabriel Dumont. “It was also nice to see all those guys who have passed through the city who are now playing in the NHL coming back and saying they still have great memories from Hamilton.

“I guess that’s going to be me in a few years. People are going to ask me how it was and it’s just tons of great memories.”

RELATED STORIES: Is FirstOntario Centre overkill for OHL?; IceCaps to Winnipeg, Hamilton to St. John’s?

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