Niagara’s Ontario Hockey League (OHL) franchise has a new owner.
Pending approval from the league’s board, the Niagara IceDogs team is set to be acquired by Darren DeDobbelaer – the current owner of two junior teams in Brantford.
The soon-to-be-former holders of the team, Bill and Denise Burke, said in a statement they’ve decided to move on with “mixed emotions” after 15 years.
“It was one of the greatest joys of our lives to be able to bring major junior hockey back to the Niagara Region and see our fan base flourish as you all embraced us,” the pair said in a release on Tuesday.
The Burkes bought the then Mississauga IceDogs after the 2006-07 hockey season and moved it to St. Catharines.
The team resided in the Jack Gatecliff Arena for seven seasons before moving to the Meridian Centre in 2014.
Over the past three years, the team has been embroiled in a couple of controversies including a sanction from the OHL for alleged secret side deals paying players above the OHL maximum allowed in the standard player agreement.
The franchise would have to part with $150,000 and a 2021 first-round draft pick, plus an admission that they violated the league’s player recruitment rules.
In 2022, OHL commissioner David Branch suspended the team’s general manager Joey Burke and head coach Billy Burke after it was alleged the two were part of an incident that violated the league’s harassment and abuse policy.
The two team executives were suspended indefinitely and the team again was fined $150,000.
In a statement, St. Catharines mayor Walter Sendzik thanked the Burkes for bringing back the OHL to the city and welcomed DeDobbelaer to Niagara as the new owner.
“We look forward to working with Mr. DeDobbelaer following OHL approval of the sale,” Sendzik said.
“The city … has made significant investments into bringing OHL hockey back to our community, and it is our collective priority to ensure that the Niagara IceDogs continue to call St. Catharines home for many years to come.”
The IceDogs lease at the Meridian Centre doesn’t expire until 2034.
New owner DeDobbelaer is currently the holder of the Brantford Bandits, a Junior B team in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, and the Brantford 99ers, a Junior A team in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.