Over the last month, it’s been relatively quiet when it comes to news of the ECHL team set to begin play in St. John’s this fall, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been work with regards to establishing a new minor professional franchise for the city.
For one thing, the ECHL has already begun fashioning a 2018-19 regular-season schedule that includes dates at Mile One Centre in St. John’s.
As well, the new team is thought to be at least close to selecting its nickname and colours — in fact, a moniker may have already been picked — but whatever the case, word is revelation of those and other matters relating to establishing the franchise probably won’t happen for at least couple of weeks.
One of the reasons could be the time of the year.
The National Basketball League of Canada’s St. John’s Edge, whose ownership group has a partnership agreement with the ECHL club, are in the midst of a playoff run. As well, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will be affiliated with the St. John’s team, are involved in the post-season at three levels — the NHL, American Hockey League (Toronto Marlies) and ECHL (Orlando Solar Bears) — and wouldn’t be expected to formally announce a new ECHL hook-up until at least the conclusion of the Solar Bears’ season.
The Maple Leafs will be responsible for selection of a head coach and that should be one of the first orders of business, hockey-wise. As for constructing a roster, look for the majority of the new team to be comprised of players under contract to Toronto on either NHL two-way or AHL /ECHL deals — there were about a dozen players with such contracts in Orlando this season. The remainder, including an expected Newfoundland contingent, will be contracted directly to St. John’s, although the Leafs could play a part in their recruitment.
It’s probably important to reiterate here, that unlike the AHL franchises that operated in St. John’s for two decades, the ECHL team is locally owned, with businessman Dean MacDonald having purchased an expansion franchise.
Of course, there is more to putting a hockey team in place than naming a coach and acquiring players.
The team has to announce its ticket prices and start a season-ticket drive. Corporate partnerships have to be established and although there is a memorandum of understanding in place, a final lease deal has to be worked out with Mile One Centre.
Given the hockey-basketball partnership, the Edge could be involved here as well, although the full nature of the relationship between the two teams still isn’t known. It is expected the ECHL and NBL Canada clubs will, for the most part, share a front office, but arrangements with regards to crossover ticketing and sponsorship would also seem to make sense.