AHL returns to St. John's ...for one regular-season game

Robin
Robin Short
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HOCKEY

Three years after severing ties with St. John's, the American Hockey League is poised to make a regular season return - albeit for one game - to Mile One Centre in the fall.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Binghamton Senators, farm teams of the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, will face off in St. John's for a Nov. 11 AHL regular-season, neutral-site game.

Three years after severing ties with St. John's, the American Hockey League is poised to make a regular season return - albeit for one game - to Mile One Centre in the fall.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Binghamton Senators, farm teams of the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, will face off in St. John's for a Nov. 11 AHL regular-season, neutral-site game.

And while Gerry Smith is delighted to land the gig, the head of St. John's Sports and Entertainment cautions not to read anything more into it than just St. John's buying a hockey game off a promoter.

"Yes, we're very excited about this, but we have not talked to the Islanders," Smith said. "We're not at that stage yet."

The game is the first of two between the two clubs in Atlantic Canada. On Nov. 12, the Sound Tigers and Senators will meet in Summerside, P.E.I., in its brand new rink.

The games are considered home games for the Sound Tigers.

The Isles have a brief bit of history in St. John's. Last fall, New York and the Boston Bruins played an NHL exhibition at Mile One.

The Sound Tigers have been the Islanders' primary affiliate since 2001-02. But attendance in lagging at the Arena at Harbour Yard in downtown Bridgeport, a city which few people involved with the AHL like to visit.

The Islanders own the franchise and can move it whenever they wish. For what it's worth, a daily non-stop Continental Airlines flights departs each day for Newark, N.J., a 90-minute drive, with traffic, from Nassau Coliseum on Long Island.

Smith doesn't want to go there just yet. But he does admit this is another trial balloon to determine if there's interest from the St. John's ticket-buying public in the AHL, which was here in the form of the St. John's Maple Leafs for 14 years.

"All it is now," Smith said, "is just another step."

The first step comes Sept. 29-Oct. 5 when the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, stage their training camp at Mile One.

Included will be a four-game mini tournament Oct. 1 between the Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies (formerly St. John's Maple Leafs) and Manitoba Moose (Vancouver Canucks).

"If the support is there (in terms of ticket sales)," says Smith, "it could signal some interest in St. John's (from other AHL teams)."

After a brief fling at major junior hockey, a three-year run by the St. John's Fog Devils in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League until the franchise was sold to a Montreal buyer, SJSE has been putting its nose to the grindstone trying to lure a hockey tenant to Mile One.

And it is clear the group which runs Mile One is putting its sights squarely on professional hockey.

Ticket prices for the Nov. 11 game have not yet been set.

rshort@thetelegram.com

Organizations: American Hockey League, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, New York Islanders Ottawa Senators Maple Leafs Boston Bruins NHL Continental Airlines Montreal Canadiens Toronto Marlies Manitoba Moose Vancouver Canucks Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

Geographic location: St. John's, Atlantic Canada, Summerside New York Bridgeport Newark, N.J. Montreal

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Recent comments

  • roger
    July 02, 2010 - 13:34

    id rather spend 15 dollars on pros than high school players, lets go ahl

  • Wince
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    I could care less about the AHL. I'd sooner see Junior hockey back here. It was a 100 times more exciting.

    PS - Roger, how many kids in high school hockey are NHL drafted players?

  • John
    July 02, 2010 - 13:32

    Good luck with this venture, however it turns out... 1 game or a full time tenant at M1C. To those who group CHL hockey in with High School hockey, you are showing your ignorance. To those who think they will watch pro hockey in NL for $15 bucks a game, not gonna happen.

  • David
    July 02, 2010 - 13:31

    I agree with Vinnie. There is no guarantee we will the the AHL back but you can take it to the bank if we don't come out and support the games this fall it will be highly unlikely we will see the AHL in St. John's in the future.

  • Baxter
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    I'd rather watch this than the crappy Fog Devils any day!

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    I have one question. So far I've seen 4 people welcome hockey to St. John's, so what's happened to all those people who bitched about ticket prices and bad parking? No matter, if they don't want to go, I won't lose sleep over it, there are enough hockey fans in St. John's to keep a team afloat.

    That said, I have a few suggestions for any future hockey franchise that plans to do business in Newfoundland,

    1 - Don't be bullied by SJSE - $10,000 rent per game is BS and will not allow you to be profitable. At the end of the day you have a responsibility to yourselves for providing a quality and profitable product to yourself and the fans of this city.

    2 - $15 a ticket in my opinion is too cheap. For good quality hockey, charge between $20 and $30. If the team is winning, you will be sure to have people lining up to see your team play. Rexall place in Edmonton has had 100 consecutive home sell-outs.
    Their stadium seats close to 17,000 and I can guarantee the prices don't keep their fans away.

    3 - You MUST MUST MUST beat the concept into the heads spectators to use the Park and Ride service. I don't know how many people blamed bad parking for their not wanting to see hockey downtown. In Edmonton, people have been told, one could argue 'trained' to know using public transit to a conjested arena with zero parking is the best way to move fans in and out quickly. If I hear one more person whine about parking when there are cheap alternatives available, I will lose all respect for whatever intelligence they claim to possess.

  • Amazed
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Roger's comment about watching AHL rather than high school players is moronic! It certainly makes those who say we have knowledgeable hockey fans here look stupid.
    While Ihave, and would, enjoy the AHL no sweat, to say the QMJHL was high schoolers as to imply they had nothing else on the go, is stupid. Show me some high school players playing next year in St. John's who are drafted in the NHL, then your comment makes sense.
    We missed seeing Sidney Crosby playing in the Q by one year. High schoolers indeed!

  • Vinnie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:11

    Although selling out the games in October & this game in November will by no means guarentee a return of the AHL, NOT putting up big numbers in sales will almost guarentee that we won't see it here again. If hockey is your thing and you want it back here as strong as it was in the '90s, then this is the time to get out to Mile One.........

  • Dan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:08

    I hope that people come out and fill the rink. This is maybe the last chance to get a second chance at professional hockey in Newfoundland. It would be great if the Islanders move their fanchise here. So come on people and and sell the stadium out and cheer on hockey, show everyone that we are great hockey fans here!!!!

  • roger
    July 01, 2010 - 20:24

    id rather spend 15 dollars on pros than high school players, lets go ahl

  • Wince
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    I could care less about the AHL. I'd sooner see Junior hockey back here. It was a 100 times more exciting.

    PS - Roger, how many kids in high school hockey are NHL drafted players?

  • John
    July 01, 2010 - 20:21

    Good luck with this venture, however it turns out... 1 game or a full time tenant at M1C. To those who group CHL hockey in with High School hockey, you are showing your ignorance. To those who think they will watch pro hockey in NL for $15 bucks a game, not gonna happen.

  • David
    July 01, 2010 - 20:20

    I agree with Vinnie. There is no guarantee we will the the AHL back but you can take it to the bank if we don't come out and support the games this fall it will be highly unlikely we will see the AHL in St. John's in the future.

  • Baxter
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    I'd rather watch this than the crappy Fog Devils any day!

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    I have one question. So far I've seen 4 people welcome hockey to St. John's, so what's happened to all those people who bitched about ticket prices and bad parking? No matter, if they don't want to go, I won't lose sleep over it, there are enough hockey fans in St. John's to keep a team afloat.

    That said, I have a few suggestions for any future hockey franchise that plans to do business in Newfoundland,

    1 - Don't be bullied by SJSE - $10,000 rent per game is BS and will not allow you to be profitable. At the end of the day you have a responsibility to yourselves for providing a quality and profitable product to yourself and the fans of this city.

    2 - $15 a ticket in my opinion is too cheap. For good quality hockey, charge between $20 and $30. If the team is winning, you will be sure to have people lining up to see your team play. Rexall place in Edmonton has had 100 consecutive home sell-outs.
    Their stadium seats close to 17,000 and I can guarantee the prices don't keep their fans away.

    3 - You MUST MUST MUST beat the concept into the heads spectators to use the Park and Ride service. I don't know how many people blamed bad parking for their not wanting to see hockey downtown. In Edmonton, people have been told, one could argue 'trained' to know using public transit to a conjested arena with zero parking is the best way to move fans in and out quickly. If I hear one more person whine about parking when there are cheap alternatives available, I will lose all respect for whatever intelligence they claim to possess.

  • Amazed
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Roger's comment about watching AHL rather than high school players is moronic! It certainly makes those who say we have knowledgeable hockey fans here look stupid.
    While Ihave, and would, enjoy the AHL no sweat, to say the QMJHL was high schoolers as to imply they had nothing else on the go, is stupid. Show me some high school players playing next year in St. John's who are drafted in the NHL, then your comment makes sense.
    We missed seeing Sidney Crosby playing in the Q by one year. High schoolers indeed!

  • Vinnie
    July 01, 2010 - 19:48

    Although selling out the games in October & this game in November will by no means guarentee a return of the AHL, NOT putting up big numbers in sales will almost guarentee that we won't see it here again. If hockey is your thing and you want it back here as strong as it was in the '90s, then this is the time to get out to Mile One.........

  • Dan
    July 01, 2010 - 19:43

    I hope that people come out and fill the rink. This is maybe the last chance to get a second chance at professional hockey in Newfoundland. It would be great if the Islanders move their fanchise here. So come on people and and sell the stadium out and cheer on hockey, show everyone that we are great hockey fans here!!!!