Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Pa.—The St. John’s IceCaps haven’t yet won anything, but if the team is to take the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference crown, it could encounter a big scheduling conflict at Mile One Centre should the Calder Cup championship opponent be the Texas Stars.
The thoughts of it has IceCaps CEO and president Danny Williams hopping mad. And he’s ready to drop the gloves.
“It’s not a lack of respect,” Williams said Wednesday night here in northeastern Pennsylvania, after the IceCaps beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 5-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the conference final.
“We’re not looking for respect from Mile One. It’s stupidity. We’re a good tenant, doing a good job, and we have proven results.
“We’re in a 30-team league down to a final four. We could get to a final two. You would at least expect a level of the utmost cooperation from that particular facility.
“All we get is pushback.”
The problem is should the IceCaps and Stars – Texas beat the Toronto Marlies 3-2 Wednesday night for a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final – meet in the Calder Cup final, the Stars would have home ice advantage meaning the first two games of the series would start outside Austin, Tex., likely Saturday, Sunday or Monday, June 6-8.
And therein lies the problem (no issue if the Marlies win, as the IceCaps would have home ice).
Mile One has the Canadian Anaesthesiologists Society annual meeting/trade show booked for Friday, June 13 to Monday, June 16. Not only are the IceCaps shut out on those dates, but also the Thursday and perhaps even the Wednesday prior to the event.
“You would like to think we would get games in Wednesday and Thursday, but we’re told absolutely not Thursday because they need to set up. Well, you would think they could find some way around that.
“Now we’re being told Wednesday might not be available. We could conceivably finish up on Monday in Texas and not be able to play in our own rink until the following Monday.”
What particularly riles Williams is the fact the IceCaps are a major tenant at Mile One – playing 38 regular season games, not including pre-season and playoffs – paying over $1 million dollars in rental fees, and bringing in between $3 million and $4 million revenue to the building, “as a direct result of our involvement. People don’t realize the centre gets 80 per cent of the gross revenues down there. And not to mention we’re the foundation for an enormous amount of spinoff downtown.
“And we can’t even get an accommodation for the Calder Cup final?
“Whatever their commitments might and might not be, if they could only shift or move or accommodate or cooperate, that’s all we’re asking.
“And I’m telling you right now, all we’re getting is stonewalled at this point in time.”
Williams likens the IceCaps to a loyal customer, but suggests there is anything but a solid, working partnership between the hockey team and the rink.
“Pushback seems to be the way it is at Mile One,” he said. “There were problems with the St. John’s Fog Devils (of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) before with Mile One, and I’m told the big part of their failure was they had difficulty finding accommodation and dealing with Mile One.
“Sure, we got a scoreclock, and sure, they finally straightened out the ice (the IceCaps and parent Winnipeg Jets had major issue with the Mile One ice surface last season), but our dealings with Mile One have not been great, that’s the nicest way I can put it.”
Williams wonders unless the meeting/trade show requires a 6,000-8,000-seat auditorium for a presentation or series of speeches, why couldn’t it be moved to The Glacier in Mount Pearl or Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena?
“They are first-class arenas,” he said.
“We are a good customer, we have good results, we’re selling out every night. As a result of that, Mile One should be happy to accommodate us.
“Maybe at some point in the very near future they might wake up and come to their senses, but for us to be in this position, where we could be advancing to a Calder Cup final, and possibly be shut out of our rink for a whole week, that’s utterly ridiculous.”