© — Telegram file photo
St. John’s IceCaps assistant coach Jason King (right) works with Andrew Gordon (back on) and captain Jason Jaffray earlier this season at Mile One Centre. Following news the Winnipeg Jets plan to relocate their American Hockey League franchise closer to home, King was pumping the tires for his home province saying St. John’s has always been and will continue to be one of the best places to play in the AHL.
IceCaps assistant coach says city has established itself as ‘one of the best places to play’
Twenty-four hours after the Winnipeg Jets announced plans to eventually relocate their American Hockey League franchise to Thunder Bay, Ont., as part of a rink construction partnership agreement in that city, talk of the imminent St. John’s IceCaps demise was aplenty following the team’s Wednesday morning skate at Mile One Centre.
To a man, the IceCaps players agreed St. John’s has proven to be an outstanding AHL market, with over-the-top fan and corporate support. And most also concurred they’d be surprised if St. John’s didn’t land another team.
But the players also took the news somewhat in stride. To them, it’s just another part of the hockey business.
IceCaps assistant coach Jason King also falls into that category, although King has a little more interest in what goes on regarding St. John’s.
That’s because the Corner Brook native makes his year-round home in the Southlands section of St. John’s.
King retired from playing following the end of the 2012-13 season, and was hired on as an assistant on Keith McCambridge’s staff this year. His two-year contract expires just as the IceCaps’ lease with the Jets runs out following the 2014-15 season.
“I don’t think it was a big shock to the (IceCaps) organization,” he said. “We knew going into this year we had a four-year contract that will be up the end of next year.
“It’s the business of hockey and we were aware of the situation.”
Moving around is nothing new to King. After leaving Corner Brook to play junior hockey in Halifax, his pro career took him to Winnipeg, Vancouver, Portland, Me., Anaheim, Sweden, Germany and now St. John’s.
“It doesn’t really change much for our lifestyle,” he said of his family, which includes a wife and young children. “We’re used to that. That being said, it’s been great for us (working in St. John’s). You can’t deny that.”
King is one of those IceCaps who believes another team will land in St. John’s — captain Jason Jaffray was Tweeting that message immediate after Tuesday’s announcement — citing the numbers don’t lie.
The IceCaps have officially sold out every game since their inception — 96 games and counting. Compare that to other league attendances which show three teams averaging under 3,000 a game, and seven averaging under 4,000.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” King said. “Stats never lie. And all you need to do is look at our support and attendance, and the atmosphere at the rink. The guys who come in here love the atmosphere.
“The word is out there about St. John’s, no question about that. It is one of the best places to play in the AHL, and has been for years, going back to the Maple Leafs. And it will continue to do so.
“If you get a team in here again, the support will still be there. That’s the way the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are.”
Meanwhile, the IceCaps left St. John’s Thursday morning for a five-game road trip that begins tonight in Providence, R.I. with three games in three days. Saturday, the IceCaps travel to Hartford, Conn., to play the Wolf Pack before returning to Providence for a Sunday afternoon matchup.
The trip winds up next Friday and Saturday in Portland and Manchester, N.H.