The mayor of St. Stephen is making a last-minute pitch to save the town’s Maritime Hockey League team.
“It’s a shame,” Mayor Allan MacEachern said. “Just leave it here. That’s all I can say. Just leave it alone.”
Rumors have been swirling around Canada’s chocolate town for weeks, but details on the future of the Junior A St. Stephen Aces are hard to come by. The Aces aren’t talking, but all signs are pointing to a move.
“It’s going to be a huge void in our community,” he said.
“This is a major business in our community. There’s employees attached to this, there’s businesses, you know, restaurants, bars, and not just hockey game nights. It’s through the week. These hockey players are living in our community, they’re living in our homes.”
MacEachern says he’s reached out to the league but has yet to receive any answers on the status of the club, which has played out of the town’s new civic centre for the last five years. Over that period the town has seen an upward trend in growth, something one local business owner says is no coincidence.
“The Aces came the same time the civic centre did, which brought the community together, brought the civic centre into the place to be in town, so they are very important to St. Stephen,” said Stephen Mohan, who owns a restaurant just across the street from the rink.
“It would be a huge hole. You know, this is entertainment for the town. They bring business in. It would be a dramatic hole.”
On top of the added business or the prestige of being home to hockey franchise, the Aces have become a fixture of the community. The team averages about 700 fans per game, and many flock to Mohan’s establishment to catch screenings of away games.
In a last ditch effort a local group has come together to try and buy the team and the town has said it will do what it can to keep the team in St. Stephen, but attempts to set a meeting with the team or the league have been fruitless.
But with an announcement set for April 15 in Fredericton, it looks as if time is running out.
“I can’t imagine the MHL hockey league wanting to see a team leaving a small town and ripping their heart away. I’m hoping they see what’s going on and rethink what they’re doing,” MacEachern said.