WINNIPEG – True North Sports and Entertainment, the owner of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, has plans on the drawing board to move its American Hockey League farm team to Thunder Bay, Ont.
The Ice Caps currently play in St. John’s, N.L., but could move as part of a potential deal announced Tuesday to build a new arena in the northwestern Ontario city.
“This is a real preliminary step,” True North owner Mark Chipman said Tuesday on Jets TV from Anaheim, Calif., answering questions about the potential move of his AHL team. “We’ve been in contact with our partners in St. John’s from the moment this became a possibility, and it’s something that we’re going to explore.”
The City of Thunder Bay announced in a news release Tuesday it found a “potential partner” to develop its event centre to include a 5,700-seat arena.
“As part of its submission, Thunder Bay LIVE proposes to bring an American Hockey League franchise to the city along with the Lakehead University Thunderwolves as anchor tenants,” the news release says. Thunder Bay LIVE! includes Stadium Consultants International, Global Spectrum Facility Management, True North Sports and Entertainment and others.
The St. John’s Ice Caps currently play in the 7,000-seat Mile One Centre in the Newfoundland capital. The AHL team is the former Manitoba Moose franchise, which moved to St. John’s in fall 2011 when the new Jets franchise began playing in Winnipeg. The AHL club is used by the Jets to develop new talent; players are frequently called up from St. John’s to fill the roster in Winnipeg if the Jets have a vacancy due to injuries or for other reasons.
Chipman says True North is committed to keeping the team there through next season.