With a year left until its new team arrives, Belleville is hopeful that the Belleville Senators will find success at Yardmen Arena.
The return of professional hockey to Belleville was prompted by the Ottawa Senators. Senators owner Eugene Melnyk purchased the Binghamton Senators and announced that the franchise would relocate and become Belleville Senators next season.
For the Senators, the move allows them to join a growing number of NHL franchises that are relocating their affiliates into markets that are closer to their operations. In Belleville, however, the arrival of the team fills a void that was left by the departure of the OHL’s Belleville Bulls after the 2014-15 season.
While the Bulls’ departure raised questions about whether Belleville and Yardmen Arena can support professional hockey, the Senators should find success, according to Belleville councillor and sports announcer Jack Miller. More from Inside Belleville:
Miller believes Belleville hockey fans will come back in droves to support a new team, with a new owner in a renovated arena.
Belleville was a solid OHL city for more than 30 years, prior to the sale of the Bulls, he pointed out and “you don’t support a team for 30 years and then suddenly not support it.”
“When you lose something you realize it. When you have a chance to get it back, you realize you have to support it,” he said.
“If you want (major hockey) when you’re in a smaller market, you have to be more supportive of it through thick and thin.”
As noted here before, the move of the Senators to Belleville could affect multiple AHL cities. Binghamton is looking to replace the Senators, and officials there are expressing confidence that a team could arrive sooner rather than later.