— Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
The chairman of the board that oversees the operations of Mile One Centre in St. John’s says discussions are ongoing regarding a potential scheduling conflict at the facility should the St. John’s IceCaps advance to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup final. However, Steve Sparkes of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment Ltd. (SJSE) says there isn’t much wiggle room that can be offered to get the IceCaps the home dates they may want.
“We can’t change the reality of the situation, and that’s what we have, a situation, not a problem. There is a difference,” said Sparkes. “With a situation, you attempt to best manage your way through it and that’s what we are doing.”
The “situation” involves a potential Calder Cup championship matchup between the IceCaps, who are in the midst of the Eastern Conference final against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and the Texas Stars, who are playing the Toronto Marlies in the Western Conference final. The IceCaps lead their series 3-1, while the Stars-Marlies mat up is tied at two games apiece.
If the Stars advance, they will have home-ice advantage in the final, which will have a 2-3-2 format, meaning the first two games will be played at the Cedar Park Center in suburban Austin, Tex. The likely start date for the series would be Sunday, June 8, with Game 3 on June 9.
The next three contests would be at the home of Eastern Conference champion, and if that happens to be St. John’s, the dates the IceCaps prefer are already booked. That’s because the Canadian Anaesthesiologists Society’s (CAS) annual meeting and trade show is being held at Mile One Friday, June 13 to Monday, June 16. Not only are the IceCaps unable to play on those dates, but Thursday is out to allow for set-up of the trade show. And Sparkes says Wednesday night, June 11 is also unavailable since Mile One needs that time to do required preliminary work
So Mile One says the best it can offer the IceCaps is a late Wednesday afternoon start time - probably 6 p.m. - for Game 3, with Games 4 and 5 on the following Monday and Tuesday nights after a four-day break.
“We are contractually obligated to have the building ready to turn over to the trade show people at 8 a.m. Thursday,” said Sparkes.
The CAS convention was booked in 2009.
The Mile One advance work for the trade show will include covering the ice, building the floor, moving back retractable seating, removing the glass, etc., and Sparkes says that work schedule will be made that much tighter with a late Wednesday afternoon hockey game.
The load-in by the trade show operators will involve, among other things, setting up booths, putting up signage and bringing in power to the individual stations, which will stretch end-to-end on the arena floor. Sparkes says Mile One has been told the load-in — separate from the work Mile One is required to do — will require the full 34 hours between 8 a.m. Thursday and 6 p.m. Friday, the official start time of convention/trade show.
On Wednesday, IceCaps president and CEO Danny Williams complained about what he saw as a lack of co-operation from Mile One.
“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,” said Williams.
“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.”
Williams also wondered why the needs of the CAS could not be met by The Glacier in Mount Pearl or Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena.
When asked for his response to the latter comments, Sparkes took a long pause.
“I don’t think I can comment on that. I don’t think it’s possible,” he began.
“I can only say Mile One Centre has a contract for this event. We have had that agreement in place for five years, two years before we even knew the IceCaps were coming here.
“If we break that contract, the reputation that we have worked so hard to build as a preferred convention destination, especially with medical groups, would suffer monumental damage.”
Sparkes added that scheduling issues at this time of year are not unique to Mile One Centre,” pointing out that they Cedar Park Center is unavailable to the Stars June 4-7 because it’s booked for a series of high school graduation ceremonies over those dates. That means the start to any Calder Cup final involving Texas would be delayed and would not be able to begin until June 8, thereby pushing forward the dates for Games 3, 4 and 5.
There would not be the same scheduling issue if the IceCaps and Marlies meet in the Calder Cup final since St. John's would have home-ice advantage in that matchup and would host the first two games.
Sparkes says discussions between the IceCaps and Mile One senior staff about scheduling for a potential final have been held since the start of the playoffs and that the team has been well aware of Mile One’s obligations to the CAS.
“We can’t just say ‘Boys, go away.’
“We have a contract. We will live up to that contract.”