Forget the Ontario Hockey League returning to the Hammer.
The mayor and city council in Hamilton, Ont., do not have a sterling record on managing sports facilities and relationships with local professional teams — Guelph Tiger-Cats, to wit — but sanity seems to have won the day, for now. On Thursday, a Hamilton city committee voted to negotiate a new lease with the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs rather than explore negotiating a lease with an unnamed OHL team, reported since last season to be the Erie Otters. By no means is it a done deal, but viewed through a major junior hockey lens, it means the OHL is not returning to the city.
From Scott Radley:
An Ontario Hockey League team had been vying for the right to use the arena beginning in the fall. That will now not happen unless the Bulldogs are unable to come to agreement with HECFI.
Though the details of both the Bulldogs and the OHL's offers to the city [of Hamilton] were secret, the Bulldogs have received an annual $220,000 subsidy from the city since 2002. The OHL is reportedly not requesting any subsidy. (Hamilton Spectator)
There is less of a guarantee that Hamilton stays affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens (which has ramifications for the QMJHL's Blainville-Boisbriand Armada). Ultimately, though, it just seemed odd for the Steel City to turn away a product with a nearly two-decade track record and little sign of diminishing returns in favour of the OHL.
Major junior has filled the void in some former AHL cities — Halifax, Moncton and Saint John. But one could argue those were strong sports markets regardless of what produce was offered and that the AHL ran its course in those cities. St. John's, N.L., with lost the Baby Leafs in 2005 and got the Ice Caps back last season, was unable to make the switch. There is no knowing if Hamilton could go AHL-to-OHL without an arena suited to the latter. The bottom line is the OHL avoids having two franchises move in many seasons, if not sooner.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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