Basketball team about to hit the court, but one sports writer says it’s a full-court press to bring back hockey.
It almost sounds like a The Twilight Zone TV plot – a basketball team playing in St. John’s.
When London Free Press reporter Morris Dalla Costa first heard of the new addition to the National Basketball League of Canada, he was surprised to hear the news.
However, when Dalla Costa discovered that the ownership group led by John Graham, Irwin Simon and Robert Sabbagh may also be interested in a hockey franchise, he saw the bigger picture.
“I believe that’s the ticket,” Dalla Costa said. “I don’t think there’s any question that you’d spend this kind of money, unless you’re also interested in something else.”
The franchise fee for a NBL Canada team is $400,000.
An American Hockey League franchise like the Ice Caps is unlikely to return to Mile One Centre any time soon, but Dalla Costa thinks the answer is the Canadian Hockey League. One of the CHL’s affiliate leagues is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“I firmly believe that there will be an application for a QMJHL team to go in there eventually,” he said. “I believe that’s what they want.”
A QMJHL franchise wouldn’t be new to the city. Almost 10 years ago, the St. John’s Fog Devils called Mile One Centre home. The team moved to Montreal after three seasons.
Much has been made of the Edge’s placement in the central division instead of the Atlantic division, leading many to speculate increased travel costs.
“I thought it was quite a get for the league to get a team from Newfoundland,” he said. “I never thought it was a possibility.”
Dalla Costa has done the math and he says the savings of playing in the Atlantic Division would be marginal.
The pairing of a hockey team with an NBL Canada team is a common occurrence. The nine other teams in the league share arena space with a CHL franchise.
As for how two teams would co-exist under one roof, Dalla Costa believes having a singular owner of both franchises offers one major benefit: unity. This contrasts the situation at the Budweiser Gardens in London, where separate ownership groups operate the London Knights and London Lightning franchises.
“There’s always conflicts,” he said. “While one team supports the other, one isn’t particularly fond of the other.”
Other followers of the league, such as Max Frampton, believe that it’s clear what the city wants.
“Newfoundlanders want hockey,” said Frampton. “As soon as this team was announced, all anyone wants to talk about is hockey.”
Frampton, better known by his online alias of “The Frampasaurus” is a self-proclaimed basketball fanatic who has built up a following playing video games on Twitch – an online gaming streaming service.
Frampton has followed the NBL Canada closely for the last few years.
“Fans need to give the game a chance,” he said. “To give up on the team before the first game, it’s not fair to these athletes.”
Time will tell if Mile One Centre becomes a two-tenant arena, but for now the ice has been replaced with hardwood. Making it clear Mile One is the home of the Edge.
As for Dalla Costa, he’ll be seeing plenty of the Edge as they square off with the London Lightning seven times this season. He knows basketball isn’t the first choice, but believes it can work in St. John’s.
“I think it can be a healthy compromise,” he said. “Hopefully, it will be a strong franchise.”
The St. John’s Edge start its inaugural season on the road against the P.E.I. Island Storm on Nov. 18.