With all the talk of an OHL franchise relocating to Hamilton for the 2012-13 season, I decided it would be a good idea for the hot-stove to debate which team should be on the move. I know Erie is the most likely to move, but that's not what the Hot-Stove is debating today.
Joining me in today's hot-stove is Joshua Newhart, Alex Quevillon, Jason Ray, Phil Phillips, Bryan Theil, and Anthony Nicholson.
In my opinion the Brampton Battalion should undoubtedly be the team on the move to Hamilton. Despite their team's great success so far this season, they've only had 2,000+ in attendance a handful of times regardless of which team comes for a visit. In my opinion any team averaging less than 2,000 fans per game should be on the move even if their team is struggling, so with Brampton's on ice success this year it makes things even more puzzling for myself. The Battalion have some good players and a very good coaching staff and I think a move to Hamilton, where they will be in more of a spot light, could be just what the doctor ordered.
I don't think that any team in the OHL should move to Hamilton. There has been a lot of talk that teams are going to move there but, why? They have had a team before and the city couldn't support it. With so many other pro hockey organizations around that area there is just too much competition for a junior team to have any attendance. Hamilton already has an AHL team, the leafs are only 55 minutes away and the Ice Dogs are about the same distance. Tell me who is going to show up? I think that if a city loses a team they shouldn't be allowed to get one back.
There are rumours of Mississauga, Brampton and Erie relocating. I say, why? Why move a team if you don't have to? Why not give Hamilton an expansion team if they're OHL-ready? The Ice Dogs built a respectable market in Mississauga as an expansion team, so much so that Eugene Melnyk trusted them enough to play home to another new team in 2007. Is it because the OHL is too complacent with the 20-team system that they don't want to add one more? I mean, the QMJHL is doing okay with 17 teams. I say try the 21-team system. If that doesn't work as planned, fold a team and hold a dispersal draft. Besides, I don't think Hamilton will go after an OHL team until the AHL Bulldogs move to Laval (assuming the plan goes through). And with Laval's arena controversy, that may be a ways away still.
I gotta say it needs to be the majors I've been to a few games and that building is empty most of the games I've attended. I swear I heard crickets, not to mention that they ate right beside the Brampton Battalion to me it waters down where fans will go and watch a game. They should spread out the OHL wealth. Although I'm not sold in them going to Hamilton. Hamilton has the Bull Dogs of the AHL might just be too much of a good thing.
I'm not sure if any team should move to Hamilton, what would they name the franchise ? The Steelhawks or the Dukes of Hamilton, maybe the Fincups? I'm not sure why the OHL didn't work in Hamilton the last time, and I wonder why people think it would now. Its the same building? and The Economy is worse off? I think maybe Buffalo might be a better option. Securing New York born players for the league.
As far as a team moving there, I'm not sure what team should move, but I know one that could move: the Belleville Bulls.
A few reasons:
1- The Team -The on ice product isn't the problem. The Bulls have done their part on the Ice. Only missing the playoffs 3 times since 1981. Three trips to the OHL final, winning in 1999 on home ice in game 7, two trips to the Memorial Cup, five division titles. Many OHL and CHL individual awards. 56 players that have played for the Bulls have played in the NHL.
2-The Yardman- I know it was the only barn in the Ontario Hockey League to have a second level of seating until the John Labatt Centre was built, in 2002. But the Yardbarn was built in 1978, its old and over the years its had some upgrades but just band aids really, nothing that would put it on par with other rinks in the OHL. The Ice making equipment is old and this year its showing its age a bit. There is no real bar, no restaurant, it feels like the store is in an other building (because it is), during Intermissions the concourse is tight. Good luck getting a drink, using the bathroom and getting back to your seat on time.
3- The Owner- Belleville no longer have the advantages of local ownership. Gord Simmonds purchased the Bulls in 2004-2005. At the time it was known that the Yardman was in need of being seriously upgraded or replaced. Mr.Simmonds has stepped up and did his part, he's upgraded the dressing room and workout area, asked for and got the OHL All-Star Game in 2006, he was reasonable for the Yardman getting the Video Score Broad it now has, and has been more they patient with the City of Belleville. He has said he wont be signing a new lease if something is not in place. And if a City has a beautiful empty building waiting for a tenant, he is a business man, why would he not go? If it's going to be more profitable to do so?
4-The City of Belleville- Its time for City council, to make a decision , and let everyone know what are the plans to secure the Bulls stay in Belleville? The Mayor has stated that it can't be done on the backs of taxpayers alone and that private industry has to be on board. Okay, so get it done, get every one together and make it happen, I understand its not that black and white, but whats the hold up, get together with Mr.Simmonds, and who ever else and at least start.
5-Fans- #MORECOWBELL, We have to support this team win or lose, I think the Bulls have only topped 3000 tickets sold in 2 or 3 games this season. Old building or new building it can't sit half full. At one time Bulls fans were named the Best fans in the OHL by the Global OHL Game of the Week. All division games should be standing room only, when Kingston or Ottawa are in town it should be sold out.
So in short the Belleville Bulls could be forced to move? The Hamilton Bulls just sounds wrong.
With everything that has come out about this possible relocation, we have to consider the difference between 'will' and 'should'. The team that probably will get relocated, as it stands right now, is the Erie Otters. The argument for that is as simple as the team's lease. Of all the teams you would consider 'eligible' for a move, the Otters' lease is up at the end of the season, while the Brampton Battalion's lease is up after next season. Many will look at the record and suggest the fact that Erie is 19 points out of 19th in the league as another prime reason for relocation, but the last-place team has actually outdrawn Brampton (if we go strictly on paper numbers).
In terms of teams that should? I would suggest either the Battalion or the Mississauga Majors. The Toronto market has enough trouble supporting one OHL team let alone two, and both franchises may stagnate given the fact that the AHL's Marlies can't even advance. There are markets that would welcome a team with stronger numbers than both Toronto teams combined, and while Hamilton may or may not be that market, they are out there and may be where the future of the OHL lies.
With talk of an OHL franchise moving to Hamilton, many have pointed to the Erie Otters, who, at least behind the scenes, have been making it known that Hamilton would be a prime destination for them. While it is quite likely that the Otters will be the team on the move, though the team is still negotiating with the City of Erie on a lease that would keep the team there long-term.
Much has been made of the recent struggles of the Mississauga Majors and Brampton Battalion, two teams who have become used to playing in front of empty arenas. The proximity of these two teams to one another only compound the problem, and it is a very clear case of the league wanting hockey to succeed in these cities, with no regards for the dynamics involved in keeping an OHL team afloat. If Erie does in fact move to Hamilton, another city will need to step forward to be a permanent home for at least one of these two franchises, and both Cornwall and North Bay have been bandied about as possible destinations.