There are tensions in St. Catharines, as the Niagara IceDogs have voiced their displeasure with SMG, the operators of the Meridian Centre.
The IceDogs, members of the Ontario Hockey League, are tenants of the Meridian Centre, which is managed by SMG. One of the disputes between team and operator concerns an event this fall, as the IceDogs cite their issues with what they say was a poorly timed NHL exhibition game. In a letter dated December 2, IceDogs owners Bill and Denise Burke says that the team found out about the game in June, too late for the team to rearrange its schedule.
The contest, between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres, took place on September 29. The IceDogs, meanwhile, opened their home schedule with games on September 30 and October 1, and the Burkes said that the timing of the NHL exhibition games hurt the IceDogs. More from the St. Catharines Standard:
The letter alleges SMG blacked out the Sept. 29 date for the Leafs game last January, “without providing any information that the blackout was for potential hockey purposes.”
The IceDogs apparently only found out about the game from SMG in June, after one of the National Hockey League teams involved had already issued a news release about it.
Had the IceDogs known earlier about the NHL booking, say the Burkes, the team would have been able to schedule its opening two games the following weekend to avoid saturating the hockey market.
“Keeping the IceDogs uninformed for six months about an event which could have major financial and fan-experience ramifications for opening weekend can only be described as a slap in the face to the IceDog organization, our young players, the City of St. Catharines and the fans.”
SMG and the IceDogs are engaged in separate agreements with the City of St. Catharines, which owns the Meridian Centre. The Standard reports that the city is having a third party review agreements relating to the arena, and that SMG general manager Ken Noakes stressed the need for clarification on the deal in a meeting with the city last week.