written by Ian C McLaren (@iancmclaren)
Ten years after the Centennials moved to Saginaw, MI to become the Spirit, OHL hockey is returning to North Bay.
This evening, the Battalion announced that they will be leaving the city of Brampton set up shop in North Bay once their lease is up at the end of the current season.
From the official statement:
The City of North Bay on Monday night approved an agreement-in-principle designed to result in the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League relocating to North Bay for the 2013-14 season and also approved a $12-million capital improvement budget to renovate and expand Memorial Gardens.
The new lease agreed upon with North Bay is a 15-year deal, “contingent upon a community campaign achieving 2,000 season tickets for a minimum three-year period and subject to approval by the OHL board of governors.”
The Battalion have been part of the OHL for 15 years, brought into the league during the late 90s along with Toronto St Michael’s Majors and the Mississauga IceDogs as part of a GTA OHL renaissance. While the IceDogs have since moved to the Niagara region and the Majors are now in Mississauga as the Steelheads, the Battalion remained the last team standing from that effort.
Brampton did win their division four times and made it to the league finals in 2009, but attendance at the Powerade Centre was always an issue, leading to their current marching orders to head north to fill a hole left by the Centennials a decade ago.
Much like the return of the Jets to Winnipeg, the onus is now on the citizens of North Bay to buy season tickets; said city councilor Dave Mendicino, “since the departure of the Centennials, the community has been calling for the return of the OHL. Now is the time for the community to come out and support the relocation of the Battalion to North Bay.” Renovations to the current Memorial Gardens will certainly help that effort, and Mayor Al McDonald appears confident that everything will line up smoothly and effectively for this move.
The return of OHL hockey is good for the city of North Bay. Being the home of the Battalion will not only contribute to the local economy but it presents the opportunity to put North Bay in the spotlight and enhance our image.
There does not appear to be any word as of yet as to what the nickname of the team will be, and the move is of course contingent on approval from the OHL board of governors.
More on this story as it becomes available.