OHL’S Erie Otters Looking At Hamilton Move

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OHL’S Erie Otters looking at Hamilton move

A city council vote is the only thing standing between Hamilton and a new Ontario Hockey League team coming to town.

A report that’s being presented to councillors Monday asks them to approve a deal with as-yet-unnamed-but-existing OHL team that would play the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena for as long as five years beginning in the fall of 2012.

The city report doesn’t say who would own the team or which OHL franchise would move here. However, a source deep within the OHL says the team pursuing Hamilton is the Erie Otters, currently located in Pensylvania. The same source says the team hopes to sell part ownership to Hamilton interests with the option to purchase it outright within three years.

If the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs were to leave – the city of Laval, Que. has just approved the construction of a new arena that will be operated by the Montreal Canadiens which is the Bulldogs’ parent club – the OHL team would move into Copps Coliseum. The report councillors will debate Monday says if Copps is not available within five years, the owners will consider building their own arena.

The deal would require the provincial Jr. A Hamilton Red Wings to move from the Mountain Arena to another local rink, likely the Morgan Firestone Arena in Ancaster. In order to compensate for lost ice time for minor hockey groups, city councillors are being asked to spend up to $350,000 on renovating Spring Valley Arena, also in Ancaster.

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) was worked out behind closed doors with city staff over the past several months – it was signed on Dec. 21, 2011 as the OHL required notice by the end of the year – but is not legally binding until council officially approves it.

Hamilton has a long history with junior hockey dating back to the Hamilton Tiger Cubs in 1953 and then including the Red Wings, Fincups, Steelhawks and the 1986 world junior tournament which was the first major event at Copps Coliseum. The city’s last major junior hockey team was the Dukes which left town in 1991 and became the Guelph Storm.

Scott Radley

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