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QMJHL gives P.E.I. Rocket/Islanders same challenge Bathurst met

Serge Savard Jr. moved the Rocket to Charlottetown in 2003What's happening to the P.E.I. Rocket is the QMJHL has rejected the team's ownership under Serge Savard Jr., not Islanders themselves.

If it's taken to be the latter, then it could be the end of major junior hockey on the Island for a good while. There is a common misconception with franchise failures that "[Sport X] doesn't work in [Market Y]." In reality, as Ottawa 67's owner Jeff Hunt recently said about his CFL venture, "Poorly run businesses don't work anywhere."

The takeaway from Wednesday is the QMJHL, whatever its motives sincere or ulterior, has drawn a line in the stand with some of its smaller-market operations. Last week, another small-market team in the Maritimes, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, were able to keep on keeping on when Léo-Guy Morrissette reached a purchase agreement with businessman Léopold Theriault, who has rounded up investors such as Titan alumnus and Boston Bruins star Patrice Bergeron. It's believed this came about after the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League set a deadline to find a local buyer. It appears the same scenario is afoot on the day after the initial reports the P.E.I. Rocket could be sold to group in Sorel-Tracy, Que.; the QMJHL would purchase the team on behalf of another ownership group" unless enough capital is amassed to buy the team and keep it on Prince Edward Island.

The Rocket averaged 1,804 fans (hat tip: Jonathan Dunphy, @Jonathan_Dunphy) this season while managing a respectable 41-win season for their best win total in 10 seasons in Charlottetown. That was just a drop in the bucket as far as reversing years of financial losses.

Savard said the Rocket has been losing money — about $300,000 last year.

The owners want to keep the team in Charlottetown if possible, he said, and have set a deadline of April 26 for a local offer.

They would be willing to be part-owners with a local group, but want to share the risk, said Savard.(CBC PEI)

Apparently raising attendance to the break-even point is realistically possible. That would depend entirely on whether the level of trust is raised to the point where enough fans in the town of 35,000 buy into supporting a small-market QMJHL team rather than a power franchise in the Maritime Hockey League. (Charlottetown's city, Summerside, is hosting the Junior A Royal Bank Cup next month, as a matter of fact.)

It's a race against time, to be sure. Eight business days to raise about $3.5 million? If Trent Birt — a genuinely good person — and other P.E.I. stakeholders pull off that miracle, then it would be a sign major junior could thrive in the postage stamp province like it has elsewhere down east.

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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