With the NHL's return to Winnipeg, there's been a lot of talk and speculation on exactly what could happen with the AHL team that's called the 'Peg home since 1996. Both the NHL club and the Manitoba Moose can't call the MTS Centre home at the same time, and as a result, the Moose will be on the move.
Until today, there was only speculation. Now, we know where they'll be going. According to The Telegram of St. John's, N.L., the Moose will be on the move to their city.
The Telegram has learned Danny Williams has a tentative agreement in place with True North Sports and Entertainment that will see the new Winnipeg NHL team house its American Hockey League team at Mile One Centre in St. John's for the 2011-2012 AHL season.
Williams, the former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, has been helping assist the negotiations for weeks in an attempt to land the team, and said on Tuesday that a potential deal "could slip away from us very easily."
St. John's Sports and Entertainment, the city government group that operates the Mile One Centre in St. John's, had requested an annual subsidy from the provincial government to assist with travel costs for the team. St. John's is the Easternmost point in Canada, and thus over 2,000 miles away from the nearest AHL opponent, the Portland Pirates. There's no word on whether or not the province gave in to that request for a subsidy.
True North Sports and Entertainment, the Winnipeg group that owns the Moose and now the Atlanta Thrashers, will retain ownership of the AHL team in St. John's. The request for help with travel costs was a major part of the deal for them, so there's definitely some money coming back to them with this move, whether from the province or from elsewhere.
St. John's has been home to AHL hockey before. From 1991 to 2005, the St. John's Maple Leafs called the city home, and they served as the primary affiliate to the Toronto Maple Leafs. They relocated in part due to the extreme travel costs involved in playing in St. John's, as well as the desire of the Leafs to have their AHL affiliate closer to Toronto. They became the Toronto Marlies upon their move in 2005.
The following season, the QMJHL entered St. John's to fill the void left by the Maple Leafs. The new team lost money and attendance paled in comparison to that of the AHL days, and the team relocated to Montreal in 2008. Mile One Centre has sat vacant since.