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Hockey fans arrive at Mile One Centre in St. John's this morning for the official announcement of an American League franchise for the city. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
It appears the operators of the new American Hockey League team in St. John’s are looking at putting a new, cool twist on an old, familiar nickname as they work to establish an identity for their club.
Nobody will confirm it officially, but the good word is that “St. John’s IceCaps” is the frontrunner in the much-discussed moniker derby.
In fact, all signs point it to it being the eventual winner.
An application for deed registration using that name has been made and m5 Marketing, which has been doing work for the team, has registered a domain name using “icecaps.”
But a solid source tells us a final, final decision has yet to be made. And it must be noted that m5’s domain registration came two weeks ago.
There may a reason for the delay, a hesitation in making an announcement, but it’s a certainty “Caps,” or some derivative has long been considered a favourite in the race.
There’s the local tradition, especially in hockey, of the Caps/Capitals brand; former premier Danny Williams, who will be paying the bills to have the team here, had a strong association with Capitals hockey, especially at the junior level; and although not as powerful as the groundswell that led to the owners of Winnipeg’s NHL team succumbing to popular opinion and relaunching the Jets, there was considerable support among fans here for “Caps.”
“However, there was at least as much call for something new, albeit with dozens of different suggestions in that regard.
IceCaps (the assumption being it would be a one-word nickname) would seem to be an attempt at addressing the preferences of the varying sides.
The “Ice” component would bring plenty of connotations: the obvious hockey one, our geographic location in the frigid North Atlantic, and the icebergs that flow along our coast around this time most every year. You could even go so far as to suggest a tie-in with cold ocean research being conducted here, as well as awareness about the environment and the polar icecap.
But we know what you’re really thinking.
Tim Hortons Ice Capps.
And that has to be the chief consideration of Williams, Glenn Stanford and associates in making a final decision, if it hasn’t already been made.
Addressing any legal complications that would come with such phonetic sameness might be the first order. Assessing whether fans and the general public here and abroad could ignore thinking about frozen cappuccinos when talking about or contemplating a hockey team named the IceCaps might be of equal, if not greater, importance.
And of course, there’s the simple, strip away-all-other-issues question: Do they like it?
Other hockey teams have been nicknamed IceCaps, including an East Coast Hockey League entry in Raleigh in the 1990s. Then again, coffee-shop complications weren’t an issue for a team based out of North Carolina two decades ago.
Any official word on a name for the St. John’s team isn’t expected for a week or two.
It’s thought the parent Winnipeg Jets will first introduce their new logo and colour scheme, with the latter probably coming into play in the jersey for its AHL club.
As well, Williams and Stanford will be busy in the coming days at the AHL board of governors meetings in Hilton Head, S.C., where the league’s top brass will be considering what’s expected to be a major divisional realignment, a shake-up that was precipitated in part by the transfer of the Manitoba franchise to St. John’s.
That realignment will be especially important to St. John’s as it determines rivalries and makes travel plans for next season. But in a league with a history of wildly unbalanced schedules — many clubs play less than half the rest of the teams in the AHL (think NFL schedules) — the actual master schedule will be even more crucial.
That master schedule won’t be revealed for at least five weeks. With so many AHL clubs sharing buildings with NBA teams that have first dibs on home dates (Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Houston, etc.) things are delayed until the basketballers unveil their calendars.
All the rabid interest in the nickname for St. John’s AHL entry is to be expected, even somewhat understandable, although the thinking here is that by far the biggest concern should be the quality of the team itself.
The NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers didn’t do great work at the AHL level, leaving their independently operated affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, to do most of the work in roster-strengthening. Now that the Thrashers have become the Jets, the folks in Winnipeg have much to do in terms of building up their development system and prospect base at the minor-league level.
In that regard, there were some positive moves this week.
The first saw the Jets make qualifying offers to restricted free agents Ben Maxwell, Spencer Machacek and Riley Holzapfel, all forwards, and defencemen Arturs Kulda and Brett Festerling. In doing so, the Jets are on track to retain five players, who along with rearguard Paul Postma, were Atlanta’s best-performing true prospects at the AHL level last season.
Every one of the above can be expected to realistically challenge for NHL jobs in Winnipeg this fall, but not all will make it, so their retention adds to organizational depth that should reach down to St. John’s.
The other notable move was the signing of centre Michael Kirkpatrick to a two-year AHL contract.
The 21-year-old Kirkpatrick — who will also attend the Jets’ rookie camp — is the all-time leading scorer for the Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs, a five-foot-10, 180-pound centre who played on both the power-play and penalty-killing units and was named the top defensive player on his team.
He’s known as a leader (he wore an ‘A’ with the QMJHL’s Sea Dogs) and a smart young man. The son of a doctor, he has a sister who is a physiotherapist and another who is in medical school in Ireland.
What’s more, Kirkpatrick’s close to being a Newfoundlander without actually being from here — he’s from North Sydney, N.S.
This appears to be a solid, solid signing, by Craig Heisinger, the general manager for Winnipeg’s AHL team. If this indication of what’s to come, concern about what kind of team we’ll take to the ice at Mile One this fall should at least begin to dissipate.
Starting with submissions from Monty Greene and Gordon King, I’ve received more than 100 replies in answer to the call I made almost two weeks ago for suggestions on what soon-to-become free agent Michael Ryder might expect in contract offers.
It would be impossible to detail all the responses, but it would be fair to say almost every one of them was thoughtful and well-reasoned.
The best way to quickly summarize the full grouping would be an application of mathematics, adding up all the proposed numbers (term of contract in years, annual pay) and dividing them by the number of people making the proposals.
The final result is a round-off, with a two-year-contract and $2.9 million annual salary as the resulting averages.
As to where Ryder will land, it’s almost a 50-50 split between those thinking the right-winger will remain with the Stanley Cup-winning Boston Bruins (I love being able to write that) and those who believe he will land elsewhere.
There’s a good chance that by this time next week, we will know the real actual numbers as well as the jersey the Bonavista native will be wearing in the 2011-12 NHL season.
(Check out today's Tely Poll Question to vote on whether or not you like the name).