Early feedback on Laval Rocket has been positive, with the Montreal Canadiens organization seeing benefits from the nearby AHL club.
The arrival of a club in Laval took effect for the 2017-18 AHL season. It was the result of a decision by the Canadiens to relocate the St. John’s IceCaps to Laval, where Place Bell was constructed to accommodate professional hockey and other events.
In the early stages of the current AHL season, the move appears to be a success. Not only has the Rocket benefited from playing in the new arena, but the Canadiens are seeing certain advantages that come from having their AHL affiliate located in a nearby suburb of Montreal. More from The Canadian Press:
It’s a great opportunity for the players to show (management) what they can do,” said Rocket coach Sylvain Lefebvre. “Instead of maybe once a month, it’s almost every game.
“It’s a conversation we had as a team, so there’s always someone here from the organization. The big club is always looking to improve and they’re always looking for players who are ready to come up and help out.”
Place Bell is an impressive facility and it ought to be, with its price tag ballooning from $92.6 million when it was first announced in 2012 to about $200 million at its completion this year, most of it paid for with public money. The site includes the main arena, a practice sheet and an international-sized rink.
The Canadiens’ entertainment arm, Evenko, is paying a reported $1 million per year for 20 years to operate the arena, which also plays hosts to concerts that are not quite big enough for the 21,000-seat Bell Centre downtown and to other events. Local boxer David Lemieux is to fight there for the middleweight title against Billy Joe Saunders of Britain on Dec. 16.
The Rocket is one of the latest results of the trend of NHL clubs placing their AHL affiliates within closer proximity of their home base. In another move that took effect for the 2017-18 campaign, the Ottawa Senators relocated the Binghamton Senators to a newly-renovated Yardmen Arena in Belleville, ON.