10 January 2007

OHL update - IceDogs to Niagara Falls?

"The Mississauga IceDogs junior A hockey team could call Niagara Falls their new home as early as this September, if the team’s owners and city council can make a deal to build a new 5,000-seat arena. "

full story from Niagara Falls Review in comments

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Printed from the Niagara Falls Review

Junior hockey in Falls in ‘07?; ‘Pretty strong’ bid, IceDogs chief says

COREY LAROCQUE

Tuesday, January 09, 2007 - 02:00

Local News - The Mississauga IceDogs junior A hockey team could call Niagara Falls their new home as early as this September, if the team’s owners and city council can make a deal to build a new 5,000-seat arena.

Capital Sports Management Inc., owns two Ontario Hockey League teams - the IceDogs and the St. Michael’s Majors in Toronto. But the OHL won’t allow them to own two teams, so the company is working with Toronto investor Tom Bitove and arena designers Stadium Consultants International to put the IceDogs in Niagara Falls, so the Majors can move to Mississauga.

“When you come with all those assets, we’re pretty strong. We’re bullish on Niagara Falls,” Capital Sports president Roy Mlakar said after making a presentation to city council Monday night.

Council voted to create a committee to look into Capital Management’s proposal.

It will have to happen quickly - the OHL has a governors meeting at the end of January, when they will want to know what Capital Management has done to sell its second team.

“I wish I could have brought this to you a year ago. That wasn’t the case, because it wasn’t available,” said Gary Green, a former National Hockey League coach who now works for Stadium Consultants International.

His company wants to design a new OHL-sized arena for Niagara Falls. City officials recognized they have to decide quickly if they want to go along with Capital Sports proposal.

“I’m anxious to get into the nuts and bolts of the deal and the business plan,” said Ald. Vince Kerrio, one of five aldermen who will sit on a temporary committee to examine the proposal.

Capital Sports’ plan would require a partnership with the city of Niagara Falls. The hockey company wants the city to build a $35-million sports and entertainment complex that would become the new home of the IceDogs. The hockey team would use the centre 40 or 50 nights a year, but it would be available for community events like boat shows, concerts, wrestling or boxing, said Green, estimating it could be busy up to 100 times a year.

Bitove said he would likely rename the team - possibly as the Flyers, in tribute to the team that played here from 1960 to 1982.

The team would sign a 20-year lease, making it the anchor tenant in the city-owned building, he said.

“We want the franchise to be stable,” Bitove said after the meeting. The Niagara Falls market is ripe for OHL hockey, said Mlakar, noting the only reason there isn’t a team here any more is seating capacity at the 56-year-old Niagara Falls Memorial arena is too small for the needs of OHL teams.

“We want to see the OHL return to Niagara Falls. It’s got a tremendous tradition to it,” said Green.

This is the second time in less than a year city council has heard proposals to bring junior A hockey back to Niagara Falls.

But this new bid is unrelated to the one from JDS Delcor city council rejected last October. JDS, a company led by lawyer Ernie Coetzee, former NHL player Steve Ludzik and hockey expert Don Cherry, said they could get a team if they could make a similar deal with the city.

Coetzee said his group hasn’t had any contact with city officials since October.

Council members said they were impressed by the reputation of Capital Sports, the company owned by businessman Eugene Melnyk, which also owns the Ottawa Senators and a potential team owner like Bitove, a partner with Wayne Gretzky in his restaurant in Toronto.

Bitove’s family was responsible for bringing the National Basketball Association’s Raptors to Toronto.

Mayor Ted Salci said this proposal is coming from “credible contenders.”

“We have an opportunity to roll up our sleeves and be creative.”

clarocque@nfreview.com

The OHL’s Mississauga IceDogs could become the Niagara Flyers by September. Here’s how, according to a proposal council heard Monday: Who: Capital Sports Management, owners of OHL teams Mississauga IceDogs and St. Michael Majors.

What: They want to sell IceDogs to investor Tom Bitove and move them to Niagara Falls.

When: Could play at Memorial Arena in September, while City of Niagara Falls builds new 5,000-seat sports and entertainment centre. Where: City of Niagara Falls could build $35-million arena anywhere

Why: Capital Sports owns two teams; OHL says it must divest one.

How: City builds new arena, hockey team takes long-term lease as anchor tenant