The Peterborough Petes are Threatening Relocation. Where Could They Go?

By ElSeldo (@ElSeldo)

On Wednesday November 23rd, Peterborough Petes president Dave Pogue said “The Peterborough Petes are in such financial trouble they could go broke in four years…if that keeps up, he said the not-for-profit team would deplete its reserves – and it would have to be sold. That could potentially mean the Petes leave the city”

The Petes are looking for more money out of the Peterborough Memorial Centre, which is currently owned and run by the city of Peterborough. Essentially they’re asking the city to bail out their hockey team.

This is a common tactic used in sports when they want some of that sweet, sweet public money. The Niagara IceDogs unofficially used this tactic before the Meridian Centre was built. In a now-removed post on Yahoo! Sports, the headline barring the threat “No new arena? No IceDogs says owner”.  The article specified Chatham, Ontario as the possible location. In fact, Chatham is a very popular pawn in the public money game. The Erie Otters, Plymouth Whalers both used the city as a relocation point, and even the Hunters – now owners of the London Knights – were looking at buying and moving a team into the area.

Of those teams only one eventually moved; the Plymouth Whalers became the Flint Firebirds two years ago. Plymouth wasn’t without a team very long, the USNTDP moved into their rink and there’s even a bid in now to host the IIHF Women’s World Championships there.

Erie is still in Erie, the IceDogs remain in St. Catharines, shiny new arena in hand, and Chatham has yet to commit to the idea that they will not spend the tens of millions of dollars to renovate an existing rink or build a new one.

Belleville was missing it’s team until the Ottawa Senators stepped in and announced plans to move the Binghamton Senators to the old Bulls stomping grounds. Hamilton was always in the mix and now they have those Bulls in Copps Coliseum. Even Brampton filled the hole of the Battalion with the Montreal Canadiens ECHL team.

So, if the Petes are threatening relocation, we need to see if it’s a possibility, with the two most popular names now out of the picture. They can’t return to their pre-Peterborough home, because the Rangers are in Kitchener now. Below I’ve quickly listed the communities I though about possibly hosting an OHL team, or have been linked to the OHL, AHL, or ECHL, or have hosted a team in the past. I’ll look at a few factors, such as arena needs, population, and travel times.

Cornwall, Ontario
cornwall

Population: 58,957
Current Arena: Ed Lumley Arena (5,000)
Former Teams: Cornwall Royals (OHL/QMJHL), Cornwall Aces (AHL)
Current Teams: Cornwall Colts (JrA), Cornwall Nationals (FHL)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Ottawa 67’s (1.5hr), Kingston (2hr), North Bay (3.75hr)

Cornwall, Ontario is the former home to the QMJHL/OHL Cornwall Royals (yes, they played in both leagues). The Royals did well, but eventually moved to New Market for a couple years on their way to becoming the Sarnia Sting. Cornwall also hosted the AHL Cornwall Aces, the farm team for the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche for three years (after the AHL fled the maritimes for some reason) before moving to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The Ed Lumely Arena was 4,000 seats, but after the AHL team left they then added another 1,000 to bring capacity up to 5,000 seats. 5,000 is just the right size for the OHL. Not too big, not too small, and easily sold out for playoff games.

Oakville, ON

oakville_downtown_stock02ca___gallery

Population:182,520
Current  Arena: Sixteen Mile Sports Complex (1,500)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Oakville Blades (JrA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Mississauga (20min), Hamilton (30 min), Niagara (45min)

Excellently located, Oakville has three things going against it:

First, it will suffer just as Mississauga and Brampton from “But Toronto is right there” syndrome. A quick drive or train ride and there’s the Leafs, Raptors, Marlies, TFC, concerts and theatre to spend your entertainment dollars on.

Second, there is no local media to focus on the team, 99.9% of TV, radio, and newspapers are based in Toronto, and they have proven they don’t give a fig about the OHL.

Third, there’s no arena. 1,500 is about 2,000 smaller than even the smallest OHL rink. So you either lose way too much money in a community rink or have some lame duck seasons in Peterborough, with people hating you, while a rink is built.

Burlington, ON

burlington

Population: 175,779
Current  Arena: Wave Sports Centre (under 1,000)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Burlington Cougars (JrA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Hamilton (20 min), Niagara (30 min), Mississauga (30min)

Far enough from Toronto to avoid the “there’s better things” crowd, and CHCH and TSN 1150 out of Hamilton will give the team some coverage, but again, there’s no rink. The WAVE is a great place, I used to play there, but it’s not an arena for anything other than rec leagues. After Burlington overspent on the waterfront redevelopment, is there any will from the citizens to trust the city to build an arena?

Thunder Bay, ON

fort-william-gardens

Population: 102,222
Current  Arena: Fort Williams Gardens (4,680)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Thunder Bay North Stars (Jr. A), Lakehead Thunderwolves (CIS)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Sault Ste. Marie (7.5hrs), North Bay (12hrs), Sudbury (10hrs)

For some reason, Thunder Bay was brought up a lot for an AHL or ECHL team recently, but travel costs would kill any team here halfway through a season. Essentially only accessible by plane to keep to a weekend schedule. The closest team is SEVEN HOURS AWAY. The arena isn’t an issue here, it’s just in the middle of nowhere.

Plus the market already has the Sudbury Wolves, and you don’t want to split the audience.

Buffalo, NY

keybank_t1

Population: 1,134,210
Current  Arena: Keybank Centre (18,000), Harbour Centre (1,500)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Buffalo Sabres (NHL), Buffalo Beauts (NWHL), Buffalo Jr Sabres (JrA), Buffalo Regals (JrB)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Niagara (44 min), Hamilton (1.25hr), Erie (1.5hrs)

This would probably impact the Jr A Sabres the most, and for sure finally put the JrB team out of everyone’s misery (as of writing their goal differential is -200. Seriously.) NHL cities who are not Montreal and Toronto share rinks and markets with junior teams just fine (Calgary, Edmonton), and Vancouver didn’t share a rink but the Giants did excellent when they were actually in Vancouver.

Buffalo is a perfect hockey city, they always lead NHL playoff ratings, regardless of the Sabres. It looks like a great market from the surface. If they couldn’t pull off an OHL team, I’d be surprised.

Markham, ON

markham

Population: 301,709
Current  Arena: Centennial Community Centre (1,800)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Markham Royals (JrA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Mississauga (40min), Oshawa (40min), Barrie (1hr)

See Oakville. They want an NHL team, but don’t want to pay for an arena, so no way they build an OHL rink.

Newmarket, ON

220px-twinney_arena_1_interrior

Population:  79,978
Current  Arena: Ray Twinney Complex (3,700)
Former Teams: New Market Saints (AHL), New Market Royals (OHL)
Current Teams: Newmarket Hurricanes (JrA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Barrie (40min), Mississauga (50min), Oshawa (1hr)

The former OHL/AHL city could maybe eek it out, but with a big chunk of residents being commuters weekday games would be a hard sell, and the arena would need extensive renovations to start, like North Bay had to do, and a newer rink would be requested or they’d pack up and leave again.

Brantford, ON

wayne-gretzky-brantford-sign

Population: 135,501
Current  Arena: Brantford Civic Centre  (2,952)
Former Teams: Brantford Alexanders (OHL)
Current Teams: Brantford 99’ers (JrB), Brantford Blast (SrA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Hamilton (30min), Kitchener (50min), Guelph (1hr)

An average size city, with a below average size arena, Brantford had the Alexanders for six years before they packed up and moved BACK to Hamilton (where they moved from) due to arena issues (which they had in Hamilton). Brantford has stuck by their guns and not built someone a fancy pants arena just because they owned a hockey team, and odds are good they’ll stay that way.

Cambridge, ON

cambridge

Population: 126,748
Current  Arena: Galt Arena Gardens (1,100)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Cambridge Winterhawks (JrB)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Kitchener (25min), Guelph (30min), Hamilton (45min)

No one wants to tear down or abandon Galt Arena Gardens, it’s an amazingly beautiful arena, the closest we’ll get to playing hockey in a castle. For this reason, I am against an OHL team in Cambridge, only because it may take money away from the Gardens.

Looking at Cambridge realistically, not a lot of cities want to dump enough money to pave a good chunk of their roads into a plaything, and they’re close enough to Kitchener to follow the Rangers.

Niagara Falls, ON

niagara

Current  Arena: Gale Centre (2,170)
Former Teams: Niagara Falls Flyers (OHL), Niagara Falls Thunder (OHL)
Current Teams: Niagara Falls Canucks (JrB)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Niagara (20min), Hamilton (50min), Mississauga (1hr)

The city of Niagara Falls had the chance to make the Gale Centre bigger for the IceDogs while it was under construction. They said no and the IceDogs went to St. Catharines down the road. There was always a hard hockey rivalry between the two towns, St. Catharines refused to support the Thunder when they were they only OHL game in town, the Standard wouldn’t even report on them.

I’d love a rivalry with the Falls again, but it looks like this won’t happen, as the IceDogs control the entire region and no one can move in without their approval (not to mention their pockets getting weighed down with compensation).

Waterloo, ON

waterloo2-1

Population: 98,780
Current  Arena: Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex (4,400)
Former Teams: Waterloo Hurricanes (OHL)
Current Teams: Waterloo Siskins (JrB), Laurier Golden Hawks (CIS), Waterloo Warriors (CIS)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Kitchener (10min), Guelph (35min), Hamilton (1hr)

Most likely the same deal here with the Kitchener Rangers; they probably claim all of Waterloo Region as their own. Everyone loves a crosstown rivalry, but that’s probably not enough to have the Rangers give up territory. If they did get a team,  they could keep up with tradition and be the Waterloo Devils and wear red and black and call their arena the Prudential Centre.

Chatham-Kent, ON

chatham

Population: 103,671
Current  Arena: Chatham Memorial Arena (2,500)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Chatham Maroons (JrB)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Windsor (1hr), Sarnia (1hr), London (1.3hr),

I’m legally obligated to mention Chatham-Kent when talking OHL relocation. If it hasn’t happened yet, it never will.

Lansing, MI

msu

Population: 464,036
Current  Arena: Munn Ice Arena (6,470)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Michigan State (NCAA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Flint (50min), Saginaw (1.25hr), Windsor (1.5hr)

I added a bunch of American cities in here now, and you know what I just realised? The college towns biggest rinks are college rinks and there is no chance in hell an NCAA teams shares anything with an OHL team.

Lansing would be a good choice, East Lansing has Michigan State for lots of hooligan college fans, it’s almost a half million people, Michiganders love hockey. It’s just, no, I don’t see the OHL using Munn Arena, and yeah, sorry.

Binghamton, NY

binghamton-senators-floyd-l-maines-1-e1443360133653

Population: 251,725
Current  Arena: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena (4,679)
Former Teams: Binghamton Whatever Our NHL Team Is (AHL)
Current Teams: N/A
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Kingston (3.25hr), Niagara (4hr), Ottawa (4.25hr)

Losing the Senators next year to Belleville, I thought, well hey, why not take an OHL team in return? But being 4 hours away from the closest teams hurts them. This isn’t the WHL; we have standards.

Burlington, VT

The men's hockey game between the Dartmouth Big Green and the Vermont Catamounts at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon November 27, 2011 in Burlington, Vermont
The men’s hockey game between the Dartmouth Big Green and the Vermont Catamounts at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon November 27, 2011 in Burlington, Vermont

Population: 214,796
Current  Arena: Gutterson Fieldhouse (4,035)
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Vermont Catamounts (NCAA)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Ottawa (4hr), Kingston (4.5hr), Peterborough (6hr)

I always wondered what Vermont was up to and it turns out to be NCAA hockey and being way too far away.

Traverse City, MI

traverse-city

Population: 144,411
Current  Arena: Centre ICE Arena
Former Teams: N/A
Current Teams: Traverse City Hounds (Tier III)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Saginaw (2.5hr), Sault Ste. Marie (3hr), Flint (3hr)

I’d say this is the second most likely American entrant to get an OHL team. No NCAA team, though it’s a little ways up there, but I’m sure the Soo would LOVE a trip that’s only 3 hours away, and more intra-state rivalries with Flint and Saginaw.

No arena hurts, but how nice would the  Red Wings prospect tourney look in an OHL rink?

Toronto, ON

hhof_fans_rafters

Population: 2,615,060
Current  Arena: Air Canada Centre (20,270), Ricoh Coliseum (8,140), Mattamy Athletic Centre at Maple Leaf Gardens (2,796)
Former Teams: St. Michael’s Majors (OHL), Toronto Marlboroughs (OHA), Toronto Roadrunners (AHL),
Current Teams: Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), Toronto Marlies (AHL), Toronto Furies (CWHL), Ryerson Rams (CIS), U of T Varsity Blues (CIS), York Lions (CIS)
Travel to closest 3 OHL teams: Mississauga (30min) Oshawa (45 mins), Hamilton (1 hour)

“But what about Toronto?” Some of you may ask. “It’s the centre of the hockey universe!”

Ah, yes, well, the thing with Toronto is it will only accept the best, and won’t settle for something less. The Marlies only survive because the Leafs want their kids close to home. They were giving away tickets to the CONFERENCE FINALS last year. When the Majors were in town they drew less than 2,000 people. Toronto is an NHL town, and an NHL town only.

The second issue is the lack of an arena. The Leafs won’t share the Ricoh, and even if they wanted to the AHL schedule is almost exactly like the OHL schedule: 90% weekends. The ACC is too busy and big, and Mattamay Athletic Centre is great for CIS, but a couple thousand seats too small for the OHL.

Best Choices

There’s only one quick choice for relocation, and that’s Cornwall. The arena is OHL sized already, and while it looks odd it would serve just fine as an OHL arena again. 4,500 seats would put it upper mid range for OHL rinks.

Buffalo would be a bit of a risk, and they’d have Hamilton Bulldogs syndrome of playing in a rink that is way too big for them, but the market loves the hell out of hockey.

Toronto and it’s suburbs are out, no arena to play in, and a lack of excitement for non-major league teams.

If the Petes keep on going with the inept way it’s being run right now, they aren’t long for cottage country. Hopefully there’s new, deep-pocketed ownership on the way to the team’s rescue to keep the Petes in town for another 61 years.

Or, I get to see some OHL games while we visit my wife’s grandmother.

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