Moose season

in Speaking of Sports by

A lot has been happening in the world of pro hockey relocations.

The Phoenix Coyotes were moving, then they weren’t, then they were, and now they’re not again.

The Atlanta Thrashers have been a hot-and-cold topic of relocation for a couple of years, but it looks like this time is all or nothing. In fact, the owner came out and asked fans if they “knew anyone interested” in buying the team, the same way you would if you were selling that canoe you don’t use as much as you thought you would.

The likely home of the Thrashers on opening night in October? Winnipeg, Manitoba.

One small issue that isn’t getting much consideration? The Manitoba Moose of the AHL, who currently call Winnipeg home.

Jets vs. Moose

That’s not to say they’d stand in the way of an NHL team returning to a town that deserves a club more than any that currently is without one. Actually, they probably couldn’t if they wanted to.

When was the last time you saw a guy rocking Winnipeg Jets gear? I saw two this week.

Manitoba Moose gear? That’s what I thought.

However this does raise the question: what to do with the Moose?

The answer? Pack them up and move them east. And that answer doesn’t seem to be lost on the people who make these big decisions.

Granted, as the rumour has grown more public the inevitable has started, with more “concrete details” being added daily. But the story remains the same: if Winnipeg revives the Jets, St. John’s will revive the AHL.

Within the past 10 days rumours have heated up that the Manitoba Moose are on their way to St. John’s. This hasn’t been the run of the mill “hockey’s coming back to St. John’s” nonsense that’s been bandied about since the St. John’s Fog Devils left town in 2008 though, this has quickly and quietly gotten legs – the type of rumour that often ends up true.

The rumour mill churns

Granted, as the rumour has grown more public the inevitable has started, with more “concrete details” being added daily. But the story remains the same: if Winnipeg revives the Jets, St. John’s will revive the AHL.

Some rumours that are out there:

  • Danny Williams is the man with the plan, and he’ll be the owner of any franchise coming here. He’s also interested in running the team with no single NHL affiliation, giving him more freedom to ice a competitive team without losing players to call-ups – something I’m sure the AHL would never agree to, as it would undermine the entire point of the league and set a dangerous precedent.
  • Glenn Stanford, hometown boy and well-respected hockey mind, is leaving the Hamilton Bulldogs to return home and run the new St. John’s franchise. Some are suggesting he’s already informed the Bulldogs that he’s done so they can begin the search for a replacement. He’s denied any knowledge of a Moose move, much less his involvement in a team coming to St. John’s.
  • This new St. John’s franchise has already been in touch with local marketing firms about getting some work done in preparation for the upcoming season.
  • Thunder Bay, Ontario and Chilliwack, British Columbia, are being considered as relocation sites for the Moose as well. Thunder Bay was a longtime home of the OHL and is the hometown of the current Moose ownership group, while Chilliwack is about to lose their WHL franchise to Victoria, BC, and will be looking for a new tenant. Saskatchewan is rumoured to be in the mix as well, with no specific town in mind. One would have to assume Regina though, given that Saskatoon is home to the WHL’s Blades.
  • A decision, which is obviously directly linked to the fate of the rejuvenated Jets, is likely to be announced one way or another within the week. As soon as the shoe drops on Winnipeg’s NHL franchise, the new home of the Moose won’t be far behind.

But maybe …

Keep in mind, these are rumours. And I’ll go on the record in saying that I hate it when the media reports rumours as though they’re facts. Especially when it comes to hockey in St. John’s because, despite what people will tell you, it’s just not an attractive market.

However, anyone involved in any field where rumours fly around a lot will tell you that it’s never the stuff that everyone knows and is talking about that you have to look out for. It’s the stuff that comes out a week before an announcement is made and doesn’t have time to get a lot of attention that’s usually true.

Danny himself proved that when he walked away from running the province. Now he may be looking to prove it again by bringing pro hockey back to Newfoundland.