by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report
ST. JOHN’S, NL. — St. John’s, Newfoundland. The most easterly city in North America, the oldest city in North America. Growing up in Newfoundland we knew three things: Fog, Snow and Hockey.
The St. John’s Maple Leafs were the first professional team to call “The Rock” it’s home. Arriving in 1991, the Leafs became the culture of the city, children grew up idolizing AHL greats like Nathan Dempsey or Marcel Cousineau. Rivalries with the Fredericton Canadiens and Saint John Flames dominated as Atlantic Canada hit its peak in popularity.
Fast forward to 2005, the Baby Leafs were on their way out as the big club wanted to move it’s prospects closer to the Air Canada Centre for ease of access and lowering travel costs. All the while, the local community still craved hockey and the city dipped into the QMJHL, announcing it’s new affiliation with the St. John’s Fog Devils. Once again St. John’s had it’s team, and once again the city watched them leave in short order.
Without a full time resident, Mile One and the local economy took a hit. Insert former Premier and local folklore legend, Danny Williams. Mr. Williams paired up with Glenn Stanford, better known locally as the VP of Hockey Operations for the St. John’s Maple Leafs between 1991 and 2005. Glenn is also familiar with the Canadiens organization, serving as the president of the Hamilton Bulldogs from 2006-2011 winning a Calder Cup with the Carey Price at the helm in 2007.
The Bulldogs made a stop at Mile One in October 2010 to play an exhibition game against the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa) with names like Aaron Palushaj, J.T. Wyman and David Desharnais in the lineup. Goaltender Robert Mayer picked up the shootout victory for the Baby Habs.
In 2011, the St. John’s IceCaps were born. Inheriting the team from the Manitoba Moose and True North Sports & Entertainment, the executive committee opted to change name to the IceCaps due to an ongoing struggle between the the Provincial Government, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador surrounding overpopulation of moose, which had become hazardous causing numerous accidents annually.
So here we are, on the day of the 2015 IceCaps jersey release. Growing up a Habs fan I can only hope it pays proper tribute to Le Bleu Blanc Rouge. The city is buzzing again, a crowd which had sold out 127 straight games from it’s inception, ready to crowd Mile One once again and cheer on a competitive young squad. Habs fans who had been forced to watch the prospects of Toronto and Winnipeg develop before our eyes finally have their turn.