St. John’s scores an AHL team

Brendan McCarthy
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‘Too good an opportunity to let go,’ says Williams

Former premier Danny Williams and St. John’s Coun. Danny Breen chat outside Mile One Centre after announcing a deal has been reached to bring the Manitoba Moose AHL team to St. John’s. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

The unavoidable slogan will be “Danny’s got his Moose,” although there’s an expiry date on that phrase since the team will eventually have another nickname. But the gist behind the expression won’t change: after an absence of six years, the American Hockey League is set to return to St. John’s.

On Wednesday evening, former premier Danny Williams stood in front of Mile One Centre to announce he had reached an agreement to have the AHL’s Manitoba Moose relocate to St. John’s for the 2011-12 season. Williams will, in effect, lease the club over a four- or five-year term from True North Sports and Entertainment, which has operated the Moose in Winnipeg for the past 15 years.

With the transfer of the National Hockey League’s Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg, the Moose was looking for a new home, and after discussions, followed by negotiations, stretching back over several months, St. John’s has been tabbed as the landing spot for the team, which will become the farm club of the new Winnipeg NHL franchise.

It wasn’t the smoothest touchdown.

Last week, after the provincial government rejected a request to provide $500,000 annually to help cover travel costs associated with

a Newfoundland-based franchise, Williams said the return of the AHL was in jeopardy. He continued to pursue negotiations with True North and St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE), which operates Mile One on behalf of the City of St. John’s, but as late as Tuesday, with no change in the province’s “philosophical” opposition to the proposal, Williams spoke of the possibility of the deal “slipping away.”

It remained in place after Williams, who says he “is on the hook” for potential operational losses, reviewed and rejigged some numbers, and made some hard decisions.

“It’s going to have to come on the revenue side of the equation,” said Williams of finding a way to cover off the $500,000. “Basically ... what it will be is through ticket prices and corporate sponsorships.

“But it was too good an opportunity to let go, so we worked at it with a vengeance. This was probably our last shot at an AHL franchise ... and I’m just delighted to say we pulled it off.”


Williams couldn’t say what ticket prices will be, although he did suggest — “I might be going out on a limb here,” he cautioned — such information might be available within the course of the next week.

“We have to get all the other numbers finalized,” he said. “We haven’t put anything to paper yet. We’ve got an agreement in principle (with SJSE) and the same goes for an affiliation agreement with True North. Once those are locked in, we should know the ticket prices.”

St. John’s was home to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ farm team for 14 years before the Leafs, who owned the franchise, moved it to Toronto in 2005, citing a wish to have their prospects closer to the parent team. Still, the AHL Leafs were generally considered to be successful operation, and although this deal is still subject to approval by the AHL board of governors, no one is expecting that to be a roadblock, especially, as Williams noted, with AHL commissioner Dave Andrews’ long-time support of the league’s presence in Newfoundland.

St. John’s City Council must also approve the deal with SJSE, although Coun. Danny Breen, who stood next to Williams during Wednesday’s announcement, spoke positively about the arrangement.

“We always knew an AHL team was by far the preferred option (as an anchor tenant) for Mile One,” said Breen, who represents the city on the SJSE board, “but there were times when we wondered if this kind of opportunity would present itself. Now that it has, I believe we have a deal that can make it work for everyone.”

“We haven’t put anything to paper yet. We’ve got an agreement in principle (with SJSE) and the same goes for an affiliation agreement with True North. Once those are locked in, we should know the ticket prices.” Danny Williams

Breen said the city’s $1.5-million annual operating subsidy for Mile One will not increase because of the presence of an AHL team, adding there might be an opportunity for increased revenue since the deal with Williams goes beyond a straight facility rental. That usually means some sort of sharing arrangement with regards to profits from concessions, signage and/or luxury suites, although Breen wouldn’t provide details before they are presented to council.

“But there is the opportunity for revenues because there will be a flow-through of people at Mile One for 40 nights that wasn’t there before,” he said.

Williams said he was “scrambling” to get a deal this week and that scrambling will certainly continue, given the small window available to move the team and to get it running — AHL training camps will begin in 16 weeks. Williams, who was once vice-chairman of the board that ran the St. John’s Maple Leafs, insists — even with the expected short-term headaches — he will never regret the decision to become re-involved in the AHL as an operator. And the travel subsidy brouhaha he had with the provincial governement and Kathy Dunderdale, his successor as premier, is something “they’ll just put behind us and move on.”

“I won’t wake up tomorrow wondering, ‘What have I done?’ It’s a business, of course, and that means a lot of work, but I’m expecting to have some fun, too, plain and simple,” he said. “It’s fun to be part of something I’m passionate about and that so many in Newfoundland and Labrador are passionate about.”

St. John’s native Glenn Stanford, who ran the St. John’s Leafs and is now the president and governor of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, will return to his hometown and take over operations of the new team.

“That’s our biggest advantage given all the challenges facing us, because Glenn Stanford is the best in the business,” said Williams.

A Facebook site (AHLnl) has been established to provide information on the team, which must still sort out its schedule and a slot within in the league structure,. However, it’s expected the St. John’s team will remain where the Moose had been, in the league’s North Division, which includes the Toronto Marlies (the Leafs’ farm team) and the Bulldogs, the affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.

And there is the matter of a team nickname. Williams said St. John’s will probably adopt the colours of the parent team, but will not be called the Moose, no matter if that nickname is retained but the NHL club in Winnipeg (see story, page C1).

“Too many negative connotations, with all the moose-vehicle accidents we have in this province,” said Williams. “We don’t want to be launching a team nicknamed Moose in September when there are reports of accidents involving moose all over the news.”

Also see Robin Short's column CLICK HERE

Organizations: American Hockey League, National Hockey League, True North Sports Atlanta Thrashers Winnipeg NHL Toronto Maple Leafs AHL Leafs AHL board SJSE board AHLnl Toronto Marlies Montreal Canadiens.And

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Newfoundland.St. John, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Steve-O
    June 03, 2011 - 14:20

    They are not going to be the farm club of Washington, if they were by all means use the Caps name thats what they should have called the Fog Devils first instead because they were not affiliated with anybody but the Winnipeg team is going to either the Falcon, Moose, or Jets. If Winnipeg stays with Moose then the team here is still going to be renamed how about Patriots named after Danny himself who did everything in his power to give NL some pride again, Jets is also good, Legends this city is the ulitmate in having a Legacy. Either way they got my support. Go Pats Go!!!

  • Mitch
    June 02, 2011 - 15:26

    Will the People who had Fog Devils season tickets get first chance at season tickets for the AHL team?

  • Matt Cameron
    June 02, 2011 - 14:39

    *"Williams, who says he “is on the hook” for potential operational losses, reviewed and rejigged some numbers, and made some hard decisions. “It’s going to have to come on the revenue side of the equation,” said Williams of finding a way to cover off the $500,000. “Basically ... what it will be is through ticket prices and corporate sponsorships."* And that's the way DW should have handled this from the outset... a pure business deal with the investors and the supporters taking the financial chances. You know... free market forces. I have my doubts that Vancouver will want their farm team 4500 miles and 5 time zones away for much more than the time it takes to get an ownership team together and move the team to VIctoria, though. Maybe a couple of years.

    • William B
      June 02, 2011 - 14:53

      Newsflash Matt...the team in St. John's will be affiliated with the new Winnipeg NHL team. I am sure people do not read but jump to conclusions...

    • William B
      June 02, 2011 - 14:57

      P.S...Victoria is getting a WHL team for the 2011-2012 season and has stated they are not interested in the AHL. The WHL is where they want to be...

  • Don
    June 02, 2011 - 13:47

    Say goodbye to the Avalon East League.

  • amazed
    June 02, 2011 - 13:18

    Hey wayne, regarding your comments about the "small number of folks who will go to see the games", St. John's, in it's last season here with the Leafs, averaged about 4800 people a game in a rink that holds, I think, 6300 0r 6700 for a game, and that was when everyone was poisoned with the Leafs et al. AHL league average this season is around 9800. So I'm doubting a small number of people will attend games while people such as your self cast a jaundiced eye and half heartedly wish the whole thing luck. Your "vast majority" is smaller than you think.

  • wayne
    June 02, 2011 - 13:06

    I am very happy that no more taxpayer dollars will go to support professional sports. It's nice to have a hockey team for the small number of folks who will go to see the games....more power to you folks and I really hope you enjoy the games and that the team does well. For the vast majority of us who will never go to a game, it's great that out tax dollars are not involved. As Danny might say "it's a win - win situation"

    • Ryan
      June 02, 2011 - 13:18

      A large majority will enjoy the games! Everyone doesn't need to buy season tickets to enjoy the team. The AHL club that was last here was extremely successful for 14 years and was well supported. A select few will complain about it being expensive (which it most likely won't be), yet they have no problem paying $60 for tickets alone to see a movie which involves no interaction among people. Why can't people just enjoy and support our team!

    • Karl Hawley
      June 02, 2011 - 13:19

      Well Wayne , you may not go to the games but you will benefit . Because all the tax revenues from the franchise will go directly into the govt. coffers. By the way it will be considerably more than the $500,000.00 the franchisee was looking for. Don`t you think that it would have been good for the govt to come on board just like they did in Manitoba ? Optics mean a great deal in politics - Dunderdale has yet to prove she can do anything to bring business and govt. together . Things like this will catch up with her . Too bad the other parties don`t have worthy leaders

    • Jillian
      June 02, 2011 - 13:54

      I agree. We don't have the population, or the public interest to support a major sports team. This isn't Toronto, folks. The AHL wlll be pulling out of here before you can bat an eye. Once the first contract expires, we'll be eating their dust as they hightail it out of here. The novelty will wear off within the fist year and there'll be more vacant seats a the games than actual fans. Considering how expensive it is to fly to and from the mainland, I also doubt that we'll be getting many other AHL teams interested in spending that much money to fly here for a game. How long did the Fog Devils last? Long enough for no one to give a crap anymore.

    • Robert
      June 02, 2011 - 14:14

      You're absolutely right about one thing Jillian...this ISN'T's St. John's...ever been to a Toronto Marlies (formely St. John's Maple Leafs) game? They're lucky if they get a couple thousand people..Ricoh is empty on most nights..all people in Toronto care about is the big three (NHL, NBA, and MLB)...their AHL franchise has very little support...that's why AHL franchises succeed in smaller markets, they are the go-to sport and team in these markets which is why St. John's always had tremendous fan support when it came to the AHL. MLSE had to resort to selling Marlies tickets for 10 dollars most days on the streets of Toronto to try and entice fans to go. Trust me, AHL hockey in St. John's will succeed before it every does well in Toronto...the only reason it's there is because the parent club wants the Marlies players in close distance for scouting and re-call purposes in case of injury, last minute scratch, etc. Before you comment, learn a little thing about the NHL-AHL. Thanks for posting..neeeext.

    • William B
      June 02, 2011 - 14:18

      Guess what Jillian. If they leave here after 3 years, that will be 120 hockey games (assuming 40 regular season home games per season ) I get to see at Mile One. The downtown businesses get that many nights of people spending money in the area. Visiting teams and staff will not be sleeping in the streets so there that makes the hotels happy. People who enjoy hockey have something to see. For those who go, there will be a sense of pride from cheering from something. Since you are up-to-date on the travel issue, I guess you know (but you really don't by reading your post) that the St. John's team will be providing travel subsidies to the visiting teams so they will want to come here...You are up to date on it for sure (sarcasm). This is the $500,00 that the clowns at Confederation Building could not spare. Do not tell me you too are in the Arts Community and feared losing your grant too. Seems to be many of them on this site lately.

  • Don
    June 02, 2011 - 12:54

    YES Dan the Man.

  • robert tucker
    June 02, 2011 - 12:53

    It is nice to have just enough money just to have some fun! Now the cabinet will have just enough bonus to pay for their AHL hockey tickets themselves! No freebee tickets for cabinet members! Hahaha!

  • robert tucker
    June 02, 2011 - 12:50

    It is nice just to have enough money just to have some fun! Sure all the cabinet will have fn now buying ahl tickets for the hockey games! Too bad free tickets for cabinet wil not be available! hahahahah!

  • JT
    June 02, 2011 - 12:30

    Got a great name for the team...lets call them the 'Litigators' or maybe the 'Tories'.

  • Graham
    June 02, 2011 - 12:25

    Soory Joe? Danny has enough problems in his life without me always picking on him. His millions can get him anything he wants anything but happiness in his life apparently. The man looks like he has forgotten how to smile. Oh well NOT my problem.

    • William B
      June 02, 2011 - 14:03

      Like Joe I wondered where you went. I figured with the $500,000 saved (term used very loosely) by the Government you would be filling out another Arts Community grant. I bet it kills you to see Danny get it done with or without Dundermoron. Tough...looks like it is done.

  • Taxpayer
    June 02, 2011 - 12:09

    Now for the BIG question. How long will they last here? My guess is for four years. I may be off by one year. Robin Short should start a contest.

  • Bob
    June 02, 2011 - 11:53

    NEWS..Danny goes into political life and "throws the bureaucratic red tape garbage to the side..." Question for NEWS; What happened to the Freedom of Information Act? Why no more exchange of e-mails, only phone conversations? When requested info IS released after scrutiny by the premier's office most of it is redacted. So yes, he did away with the red tape but only to save his sorry ass.

  • trouty
    June 02, 2011 - 11:52

    Great news thank you Danny,now its time for the lazy people to complain about parking.The best part is if ticket prices are high its the provincial goverments fault for being cheap and not helping,so to those who will complain about prices contact primer Dundermoron for that ,maybe then she will explain why the Republic of Doyle got money and this never

  • Herb Morrison
    June 02, 2011 - 11:25

    The socio-economic benefits for the City of St. John's, the Provincial Government, the general public, and iocal businesses, far outweigh any risks being taken in establishing an AHL team in St. John's. With Danny Williams superior business sense, I am sure he can do much to insure that this deal is beneficial for all impacted by it. Hopefully none of the parties involved will seek retribution for anything which has transpired as this sequence of events surrounding the establishing of an AHL. franchise continues to unfold.

  • Barry
    June 02, 2011 - 11:20

    I sure hope we don't see Terry French all dolled up to drop the puck opening day on behalf of the provincial government.

  • Calvin
    June 02, 2011 - 10:56

    I agree Jeffo, the government should not have funded the teams travel, but all the haters I am referring to are the ones who claimed Danny was an egotistical money grubber who wanted someone else to pay for his toy. Sad part is the government is still gonna benefit from Dan's venture in the form of tax dollars, wihtout showing any support for the project. Now all the haters will be pulling for Dan to fail while they take in a game, drink some beer, go out for supper, and go downtown after the games and contribute to Dans income while they complain about his success.

  • JOE
    June 02, 2011 - 10:48

    Were is Graham, no Danny bashing comments yet. Using a different name this time I Guess lol.

  • Robert
    June 02, 2011 - 10:39

    Lots of excitement here and that is totally great! NAME THAT TEAM!! There is nothing more unique about Newfoundland than the majestic and powerful ICE BERGS that drift by our shores every year. There are many nick names for ice bergs but none more compelling than GROWLERS and what a name for "our" hockey team! Picture an ice blue growling ice berg on a jersey! All kinds of potential marketing products. Perhaps some ice berg vodka just to make it go down smooth! Lets go St. John's GROWLERS....................roar!!

    • GoMooseGO
      June 02, 2011 - 11:12

      Love it!

    June 02, 2011 - 10:32


  • News
    June 02, 2011 - 10:21

    He's a Rhodes Scholar, one of the finest lawyers in the land, the guy builds multi-million dollar companies, he jumps into political life and throws all the bureaucratic, red tape garbage to the side. He backs down from no one and has no time for nonsense when it comes to getting things done. No salary from the public purse needed because of his savey business sense. He gets rid of the criminal leaches who are null of any form of integrity, stealing our hard earned dollars to retire on "no-conscience" beach, looking forward to soaking up the sun somewhere in Florida while they chuckle at everyone else's lack of intelligence ... and of course, they would never be caught in our "social circles" ... no,no, they are much to sophisticated for that ... He gets deals done that others have been trying for years to get done with no success. He puts our province in a place we have never known ... a have province with an unbeleivably bright future. He skips all the "Political Crap" of having his accomplishments put up on a white screen in some stuffy evening of glorification so he can go get us a professional hockey team instead .... and again he gets it done. No I'm not a friend or family member, never met the man ... just a common sense observer ...for all the crap you've taken, all the hard work you've put in to make our home a better place ... one word Danny buddy ... from one Newfoundlander and Labradorian to another .... "Thanks" ....

  • Jean
    June 02, 2011 - 10:17

    I forsee egg on the faces of our government...shameful....But, with all the revenue it will reap, they will be pounding their chests re: monies they are receiving from this...I WILL NOT FORGET THIS COME ELECTION DAY..

  • Ron
    June 02, 2011 - 10:10

    How 'bout we have some fun with this.....WHAT WILL WE NAME IT? Danny seems to want a name that represents the entire province. I like NL Caribou. Several herds roam all over our province and they are significant in our Military history.

  • Bring Da Moose
    June 02, 2011 - 09:46

    If you support pro hockey in Newfoundland and Mr. Williams efforts to bring the Moose here please stand and be counted with the best hockey fans in the world by joining our grassroots movement. Please like us on facebook, visit our site or follow us on twitter @bringdamoose. Help us show the powers that be that we support the team! Thank you in advance for your support, your thoughts and opinions are appreciated.

  • CJ
    June 02, 2011 - 08:59

    Good news..... I guess since the government didn't want to get involved in this 'scheme' they will pass on the extra tax revenue it generates... or maybe they'll use it for something around the bay...oh, wait a minute, the tax revenue generated can't be used out of town because the AHL team will only benefit St John's ...... lol

  • Mark
    June 02, 2011 - 08:58


  • MIke
    June 02, 2011 - 08:57

    I still firmly believe that the proivince should have done a little to make it more palitible. Like it or not the other benefits are too much to ignore. Maybe downtown will have life on other days and dont forget the 40 more dates(plus playoff) where the staff get paid, too often we look at the surface and say the roads, etc. Unfortuanately Government is too inconcistant when doling out benefits, The team will provide at least the same amount of benfits that the 1.5 million given to Republic of Doyle. That said good on Danny Williams, now he has taken the risk the rewards are all his, and he will remind the government of that at every turn I am sure.

  • Kevin
    June 02, 2011 - 08:55

    Newfoundland Puffins!!!

  • chief
    June 02, 2011 - 08:51

    "Wiggy" don't worry about wearing a sweater with a moose on it. if you keep up with the news you would have heard that the team is NOT going to be called the Moose... agree with you Calvin, what's up with this "Garge S" ? is she liberal or Dunderdales daughter ? haha Keep Leading Danny...

  • bonnie butler
    June 02, 2011 - 08:46

    never doubted for a minute that Dan THE MAN would bring this home to us. great business man and another job well done and i still wish danny was still our premier.O DANNY BOY THE HOCKEY FANS ARE CALLING!

  • observer
    June 02, 2011 - 08:30

    As a St. John's taxpayer I would like to know how much of my taxes are going to support this team. I already sunsidize Mile One. Will this "anchor tenant" make money for Mile One and thus reduce the subsidy from the City? While I have no problem with AHL hockey I do have a problem with it being on my dime. As for the government subsidy, I thnk Premier Dunderdale was quite correct in not providing this for a business venture that should be able to stand on its own two feet, if not, any smart business person wouldn't be involved. I think Mr. Willliams undersatnds this concept extemely well. Contrary to the notion that he has put out there in the media that this deal has to be done in matter of days or we lose the chance to have an AHL team, according to the news of last night and this morning these negotiations have been going on for months so why ask the government for money at the "eleventh hour" and then float the notion that the deal may be dead because of the government's refusal to subsidize. I think it is all a calculated move to discredit Premier Dunderdale; especially knowing full well that when Mr. W. was in government supporting professional sports was just not on. While I applaud your business acumen Mr. Williams and wish you every success with this new venture, I detest your modis operandi whereby you take every opportunity to discredit the new Premier with innuendo and carefully screened insults. Much like the heros of the Greek Plays, Mr. Williams preponderence for discrediting others to make himself the hero is his TRAGIC FLAW. He'd be well served to rein that in.

  • JeffO
    June 02, 2011 - 08:21

    Calvin, most of us who complained about Williams over the last week aren't "Danny haters." What we hated was his idea that the taxpayer should help pay for his shiny new toy. I'm amazed at how many suckers supported his scheming and money-grubbing. Glad the government saw through it and gave him the brush off.

    • Steve
      June 02, 2011 - 09:28

      If the Province does not want to support the AHL then they shouldn't reap any of the finanical benefits either. The tax that is charged (PST) on the ticket prices and concessions should go right back to help Williams with the cost of the team. People that are concerned with their tax dollars should be aware that they are paying for an empty Mile One now. Having the AHL there will create revenue for Mile One (so tax payers are not solely supporting it), provide great family entertainment, and revenue for the surrounding businesses, the city, and the Province. I think Dunderdale has some beef with Williams and no matter what he offered she would turn her nose up at regardless. Get over it Dunderdale, he is the only reason you are where you are today.. Go Moose Go

  • Calvin
    June 02, 2011 - 08:19

    Sorry George S., Dan was involved with the Leafs when they were in town and made money, which is why he wants back in. If that is the best you can come up with to badmouth the man now then move on.

  • tony
    June 02, 2011 - 08:16

    I agree bring back the Caps. Great idea ...Problem is the colors are different ....the jets colors are blue and white ...not red and white, like the old caps. Washington Capitals may also hold the rights on the caps name. How about .....OH DANNY,S BOY,S LOL LOL

      June 02, 2011 - 09:43

      There are plenty of AHL teams out there with colors that don't match the parent. Let's carve our own AHL identity! GO CAPS GO!!!

  • George S
    June 02, 2011 - 08:10

    It will be very interesting to see how Danny does in a business environment WITHOUT a regulated rate of return, i.e. cable television, power generation/distribution. My guess is: not so well.

  • JeffO
    June 02, 2011 - 08:09

    So Danny is on the hook for potential losses? Isn't that the way business is supposed to work? I'm glad the guy got a deal done, but let's not pretend he's a superhero. He's a businessman. Congratulations to Premier Dunderdale for not getting sucked into this scheme.

  • Ron
    June 02, 2011 - 07:54

    Well I got to give your Robin Short full credit for first breaking this news just 10 days ago. He wrote with such as a matter of fact sound. It sounded to good to be true. You were certainly right and deserve full credit. Then there is Danny. Wow what a son we got.

  • Calvin
    June 02, 2011 - 07:48

    Way to go Dan, let's hope this works for Newfoundland & St. John's. On another note, lets go Danny haters, what do you have to say now? Dan put up the money for the team, is bringing it here for our benefit as much as his own. As far as I am concerned, anyone who doubted the man's intentions should be last in line for tickets when they go on sale.

  • Wiggy Field
    June 02, 2011 - 07:26

    Bring back the Caps........... "Go Caps Go" almost took the roof off of the building at the old lady on the lake for decades. "Go Moose Go" just doesn't have a ring to it. Myself, like others, would don a Caps a jersey no problem, but a jersey with a big Moose on it? Not a chance. I was on the receiving end of too many sweaters and T-shirts at xmas with Moose or other animals on it, I'll never wear another. Dress up a new mascot - "Bucky" in honor of the late Buck King, and have him skate around the ice between periods shooting in to an empty net. Bucky had the record for most empty net goals at Memorial Stadium.