Bassin has operated the Otters in Erie for 17 seasons (OHL Images)Between phenom Connor McDavid, their ambitious import draft selections of Oscar Dansk and Andre Burakovsky and that time when centre Connor Crisp was a fill-in goalie (must we go to that comic well again?), the Erie Otters have an impressive headlines-to-wins ratio.
So you just had to know there would be a bit of off-ice drama with OHL camps opening. Perhaps this is making something out of nothing, since the Otters' 74-year-old managing partner, Sherry Bassin, hasn't been shy about stating that he's looking for an exit strategy. Bassin, who's begun negotiating a new arena lease in Erie (although there's been little news about that of late), was more unequivocal about his plans to sell the team. That doesn't
From Guy Flaming:
"Absolutely, people talked to me about moving the team and selling the team. I'm not going to be around where they've got me sideways pouring Pablum in the side of my mouth here, okay. Of course I want to sell the team and have be the right way and ease out and so forth. You just told all your listeners that I've been here for 114 years. I'm absolutely looking and studying the prospect of selling the team, make no mistake of that. And why not? There's going to come a time where they won't want me around.
" ... I still feel young, but make no mistake, I'm investigating selling the team on the right terms and the right path." (The Pipeline Show, Aug. 24, starting at 16:30)
Rather than make something out of nothing, the rational, reasonable take is that it's better than even money Erie will stay put. The handwriting on the wall was much more legible 12 months ago when the first Brampton Battalion relocation stories hit the news. The Battalion, outside of their loyal band of supporters, were done trying to sell major junior hockey to a market that was not interested. North Bay was also a viable market for relocation.
Erie, on the other hand, has a track record of strong support for the OHL. The city also sounds more assertive about keeping the Otters as an anchor tenant after renovating Erie Insurance Arena. Brampton, last summer, seemed more lukewarm. It's just that major junior, as is the case in any of its U.S. markets, isn't the only way to go after the hockey-fan dollar. There also isn't a landing spot unless Hamilton opens up for the OHL.
Erie, with a maturing McDavid surrounded by a greater talent base, should reverse that trend with a playoff appearance in an OHL Western Conference which has a few teams restarting the normal cycle. (Sarnia and Owen Sound, to name two.) For the players' sake, one might hope this doesn't become a distraction. No one who wasn't in the Battalion's dressing room can say whether it affected the club mentally last season.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to email@example.com.