What a crazy time for hockey in the city of Hamilton.
With the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs fighting for a playoff spot and two of the city’s junior teams already eliminated from the playoffs in their respective leagues, another player is on the horizon to join in this fall.
According to an article The Hamilton Spectator a report will be presented to Hamilton City Council on Monday looking to approve a plan which could bring an Ontario Hockey League franchise to the city. The unnamed franchise, which is believed to be the Erie Otters, would play in Mountain Arena on Hamilton Mountain.
Otter’s owner Sherry Bassin responded to rumours of a Hamilton move last week, stating that he has no intentions on moving the team out of Erie as long as he’s the owner. According to a report in The Erie Times-News, the club was looking to extend their lease with the Erie County Convention Center Authority for another year. Their three year lease expires at the end of the current season.
A move by any OHL franchise to Mountain Arena would ultimately result in the relocation of the current tenant, the Hamilton Red Wings junior ‘A’ team. The Red Wings just finished their season of play in the Ontario Junior Hockey League after being eliminated by the Buffalo Junior Sabres in the first round.
The article in the Spec mentions the Morgan Firestone Arena as a possible new home for the club, with a $350,000 price tag coming to renovate neighbouring Spring Valley Arena due to lost ice time for local minor hockey groups.
The question remains why the Red Wings would have to vacate at all to allow the presence of an OHL franchise. Many cities in the United States have NHL/AHL and NBA franchises who share an arena. Why the same can’t be done with Mountain Arena?
News of possible team moving is nothing new to the city, especially as of late with the rumours of the Hamilton Bulldogs’ potential departure for Laval after next season. Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer denied those rumours as well.
Interestingly enough the Erie Otters, the team rumoured to be moving to Hamilton, orginally played in Hamilton.
The franchise first played in Hamilton as the Hamilton Tiger Cubs from 1953-1960, the Red Wings 1960-1974 and the Fincups from 1974-1976. The teams played out of Barton Arena. The team was moved in 1976 after Barton Arena was closed and the city of Hamilton refused to make a decision about a new arena. The city debated whether to build a 5,000-seat building for the Fincups or a 16,000 seat arena in hopes of pursuing a World Hockey Association team.
The Fincups returned to the city for one season in 1977 at Mountain Arena before moving once again a year later to Brantford. The franchise returned once again in 1984 as the Hamilton Steelhawks for four seasons, the first at Mountain Arena and the subsequent three at the brand new Copps Coliseum. The team was later move to Niagara Falls and then Erie in 1988 and 1996 respectively.
We’ll find out more Monday when the report goes before council.