Buzzing The Net

Brampton getting Central Hockey League franchise in wake of Battalion move: um, okay

The Brampton Battalion are moving to North Bay, Ont. (OHL Images)

The Ontario Hockey League product never had traction in Brampton, even though major junior hockey has existed in southern Ontario for generations. Now that the Battalion are North Bay-bound, former Junior A owner Gregg Rosen is bent on filling the void with a lower-level pro league where the closest competitor team will be closer to Chicago than Toronto.

Snarking good luck with that upon hearing that Brampton is expected to join the Central Hockey League is understandable. Selling suburbia on having its own team within Leaf Nation has never taken for three different OHL teams, potentially four depending on how owner Elliott Kerr's three-year commitment to the re-branded Mississauga Steelheads (né Majors) pans out. However, Rosen, an executive in a steel company, built a reputation as a tremendous owner with the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (which he sold in 2011, one year one year after his cancer diagnosis). Rosen, who has been looking for years to own either a minor pro or major junior franchise, is a tough person to bet against. He might have some long odds, though.

From Robin Inscoe:

“I’m elated,” said Rosen, after watching as councillors voted unanimously to some financial modifications that would pave the way for the team moving here. “I now know Brampton is the right choice.”

The new franchise has until the end of the month to finalize their lease agreement if they hope to ice a team next season, but that seems like a formality. City officials and Realstar Group, owners of the Powerade Centre, were in negotiations yesterday trying to iron out their part of the 15-year lease agreement.

As part of the agreement, the new team will pay half the purchase price for a new $1.25 million state-of-the-art video board and clock for centre ice with the city paying the other half and reimbursing the owner out of revenues earned.

... Why do Rosen and [Brampton team president Cary] Kaplan think a professional league can work in Brampton when the OHL has failed?

“We will be engaged in the community,” admitted Rosen. “This will be Brampton’s team.”

And Kaplan noted that a board will be set up to gather input from the community.

“Build it and they will come doesn’t work,” noted Kaplan, who runs a sports marketing organization and was the former president of the Hamilton Bulldogs. “Build it and then get to work.” (Brampton Guardian)

From the OHL's point of view it means the Steelheads will have a rival in an already tight market, rather than having an area of the GTA completely to themselves next season. There might be more potential to make this work than some would give credit for. The Battalion were said to have a poor relationship with grassroots hockey, which exacerbated their struggles to fill the Powerade Centre. If Rosen, Kaplan and cohorts mend fences and make connections, there's a chance.

Just understand, it's not a great chance.

The upshot is the hardcore Brampton fans at least have an alternative, although the Central League is a step down from even the ECHL. It doesn't completely make up for the loss, but hockey consumers in Victoria made the switch from mid-tier minor pro to junior when the Victoria Salmon Kings were bumped out by the Victoria Royals in 2011.

Who knows, keeping full-season, higher-level hockey in Brampton might keep the porch light on for the OHL to take another shot in the city someday. An OHL team was surely what Rosen wanted to own all along; about 10 years ago, he worked with a group of Queen's University engineering students who designed a new main Kingston, Ont., arena (which for the record, would not have been on the same site as the current K-Rock Centre). His hometown Frontenacs were never for sale to him, which is understandable since Rosen and Fronts owner Doug Springer are from two well-established Kingston families. There's probably a pride thing at play.

Rosen went as far as he could with the Junior A team. A Brampton CHL team presumably seems like the best step up.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to btnblog@yahoo.ca.

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