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OHL Team Moving To Hamilton

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OHL Team Moving To Hamilton? November 23, 2012 7:43 AM

With the Brampton Battalion on the move to North Bay Ontario for the start of the 2013-2014 season, it looks like another team is kicking the tires of moving as well.

Once again the Erie Otters are shopping around, and once again Hamilton is the location.

Back in March Otters owner Sherry Bassin stated that a two year lease extension with the Erie County Convention Center Authority had been agreed to "in principal". Since that time, there has been no news on an extension actually being executed between the two groups.

TJHN has been informed that the Otters have been working under a one year extension of the previous lease that expired at the end of last season. This extension was actually in place before the "agreement in principal" was reached this past spring.

Multiple sources have informed TJHN that at a Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Incorporated board meeting on Friday, an OHL franchise — strongly believed to be the Erie Otters — will likely receive the right to begin working on a deal that could see the junior team move to Hamilton in time for the start of next season.

Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Incorporated operates Copps Coliseum, The Hamilton Convention Centre, Hamilton Place, and The Molson Canadian Studio. Basically, if you want to do something in Hamilton, you want the HECFI on your side.

The OHL’s move into Hamilton would mean the demise of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, the American Hockey League franchise that’s called the city home for the past 17 years. The Bulldogs’ lease at Copps and its affiliation agreement with the Montreal Canadiens both expire at the end of this season.

Along with HECFI, it looks as though Global Spectrum Arena Management may have a say. It is believed that Global Spectrum will be taking over the facility management contract for Copps Colesium at some point next year. Global Spectrum is known as a profit producing management company, and typically have their fingers on the pulse of hockey trends.

“Recognizing the importance to the city and Global Spectrum of the hockey tenant and associated lease terms, we respectfully request that Global Spectrum be given additional time to evaluate both scenarios so that we can present the best possible business model to the city for approval,” Global Spectrum COO John Page said in a letter addressed to council on Oct. 26.

Moving an OHL franchise to an arena that seats 18,000 fans and displacing a team that has been in the comminity for 17 years? Coupled with the fact that the current team is one of the best in the league and is packing the house in attendance, makes many question the HECFI and Global point of view though.

The move would definitely make sense for the Otters though. Once again attendance numbers are not what the organization had hopped they would be, and once again the team is in last place. A move to Copps Coliseum would at its worst double the attendance numbers currently experienced in Erie. Even when the NHL returns to Toronto, Hamilton will always have a large hard core fan base to draw from.

Should a move be made by the Otters, you can put Erie at the top of the list for USHL or NAHL expansion over night.

By Joseph Kolodziej

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