NHL draft prospect Yan-Pavel Laplante and his P.E.I. teammates could be on the move (The Canadian Press)Marriages of convenience seldom last and however the P.E.I. Rocket's saga in Prince Edward Island ends, it looks like it end awkwardly.
Over 10 seasons, the franchise was a team named after a Quebec icon Maurice Richard plunked down in Charlottetown, which was one factor among many that explained why the Rocket have struggled to be as successful as their Maritimes brethren in Halifax, Moncton and Saint John. While not all hope for major junior hockey's future in P.E.I. is lost, at first blush it sounds like ready-to-sell owners Serge Savard and Serge Savard Jr. have set the bar impossibly high for Charlottetown interests to keep the team on the island.
Earlier Tuesday, Réseau des sports (RDS) reported the Savards have given local investors a 10-day window to raise the cash to buy the team. Otherwise, a group includes RDS commentator Marc Denis and active NHLers François Beauchemin and Marc-Andre Fleury will buy it and move P.E.I. to Sorel-Tracy, Que., reviving the old Sorel Éperviers moniker of a team that played in the QMJHL during the 1970s.
This came just one day ahead of the planned rollout for the team's rechristening as the P.E.I. Islanders. So it's a shocker, especially considering that Savard Jr. said on Jan. 15 that the team would not move.
From Charles Reid:
Serge Savard and Serge Savard Jr., who own the Rocket, have given a group of unnamed local investors until April 26 to buy the team or it will be sold to a group headed by current NHLers François Beauchemin and Marc-Andre Fleury, and former pro Marc Denis.
That group would move the team to Sorel, Que.
Rumours of the team moving or being sold and then moved have swirled around it for years, talk spurred on by dwindling attendance and lack of playoff success. (Charlottetown Guardian)
The RDS report mentions it's possible the P.E.I. government could provide a loan to help the Charlottetown group meet the reported $3-million price tag.
Talk about an ultimatum, though. It would give the Savards a basis to say they tried their darnedest to find a way to keep the team put, but came up empty. Then, voilà, there was a group just waiting to increase the Quebec presence in the QMJHL from 12 teams to 13.
@peiguardian On Jan 15 when asked about rumours Savard Jr told Guardian "the Rocket is here in P.E.I., that's it - end of story."
— Shane Ross (@PERhymeorReason) April 16, 2013
Guardian is reporting PEI Rocket being sold . Press conference Wed morning at 1030 . Team could move if local group doesn't buy .
— Lee Gauthier (@gauthier_lee) April 16, 2013
It is encouraging for the QMJHL's profile in Quebec that it is starting to re-establish itself in cities where major junior hockey had died out. The expansion Sherbrooke Phoenix thrived in a city that had been a graveyard for major junior teams. There is strong interest in Trois-Rivières, which lost its team in the early 1990s, although the Shawinigan Cataractes' territorial interests might keep that revival from ever happening. Sorel last had major junior in 1981.
The QMJHL leaving P.E.I. is not yet a fait accompli. If it happens, though, it could salt the earth as far the Q returning to the postage-stamp province is concerned. Summerside, P.E.I., and its 4,000-seat Consolidated Credit Union Place is more than suitable for the Q if there's no competition from Charlottetown. But losing a team might collectively sour the province on the league.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.