St. John's IceCaps set to move to Thunder Bay

Owner True North helping to build new arena in Ontario

In my continuing efforts to catch up on news overlooked in the last several weeks, here's one. The AHL's St. John's IceCaps — formerly the Manitoba Moose before the Winnipeg Jets ran them out of town — will depart Newfoundland for a new home in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

The news broke a couple weeks ago that True North Sports and Entertainment — owner of the IceCaps and Jets — are part of a consortium planning to build a new arena in Thunder Bay. That paired with the IceCaps' travel challenges — being located way out in the Maritimes — made the dots easy to connect.

And for what it's worth, IceCaps management has been apprised of the situation every step of the way. So at least no one's getting the rug pulled out from under them.

Club has at least two more seasons in St. John's

The Thunder Bay deal is nowhere near final at this stage, but obviously wheels are in motion. That said, if the IceCaps do end up leaving St. John's, it will not be with any haste. According to a CBC report, the soonest the franchise could relocate is the 2016-17 season.

Bear in mind, once the deal is finalized, the arena still has to get built. But True North CEO Mark Chipman does want to move the IceCaps to Thunder Bay. So it likely means the countdown is on to the end of another chapter in St. John's hockey.

Team CEO determined to keep pro hockey around

If the franchise does move, however, the next chapter could start immediately. The same CBC report said IceCaps CEO Danny Williams is dedicated to keeping the AHL in town — even if it means getting a new franchise.

"Over the course of the last three or four months, we as an organization have put together a prospectus on the city and on the team, and marketed the province and the city to the AHL and to some other AHL teams. So we're way ahead of this," [Danny Williams] said.

"We're optimistic that we will get a replacement team here, and if necessary, I'm quite prepared to go out and buy an AHL franchise in order to keep hockey here in the city."

Williams said the new team will have the St. John's IceCaps name and logo.

Now that's commitment.

This is something to keep an eye on. Sounds like we may have another new AHL team to track in a year or two.