One of Ice Edge's sops to Canadian fans, along with talk of playing some games in Saskatoon, is it would try to relocate the team's AHL affiliate in Thunder Bay (which you would recall is of comparable size with some AHL markets). Leith Dunick at TBNewswatch followed up today with a report:
"(Thunder Bay) City council on Monday will be presented a report detailing the possibility of the city building a $60-million, 5,600 seat facility within the next couple of years to replace the aging Fort William Gardens.It's not for yours truly to say how this would affect the Thunderwolves. For instance, if Thunder Bay builds an arena, would they stay there or at the "aging" Gardens until it becomes really obsolete?
"The report shows that an AHL or Ontario Hockey League team could succeed in Thunder Bay, but must draw at least 4,300 fans a night. The Lakehead Thunderwolves, the main tenant at Fort William Gardens, currently draw in the 3,100 range."
It is early the game as far as Ice Edge being able to relocate the AHL team. If you read Make It Eight, you get the feeling they're the perfect mule for the corporate-welfare cartel. As our own Mike Aylward notes, Thunder Bay has a history of being fair-weather fans when it comes to junior and minor-league hockey teams, especially those whose schedules require a lot of midweek games.
Getting back to the point, it is hard to imagine that LU is jumping for joy at the prospect of a minor-league or major junior team moving into the city. Part of the selling point, if memory serves, was that its unique business model would work since there was little to no competition. (Junior hockey might not be much longer for North Bay now that CIS hockey has moved in, by the way.) This is a little like owning a store on Main Street and hearing that Wal-Mart is moving into town; you can either give up or rally.
AHL one step closer (Leith Dunick, tbnewswatch)
Junior hockey in North Bay is strictly prohibited (Ken Pagan, North Bay Nugget)