Jr. C team looking to make the move to Amherstburg

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Jr. C hockey could be on its way to Amherstburg next season after a franchise relocation was approved last week by the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA).

The OHA board of directors approved the relocation of the Kingsville Comets to Amherstburg during a board meeting held last Wednesday night. While the move isn’t quite done yet, team ownership is optimistic about coming to the UCCU Complex.

“It’s very close,” said co-owner Gaspare Spada. “We’re really excited about it. It’s going in the right direction.”

Spada, who owns the team with Joe Donato, said they are in talks with the town and believes they are going well. He said they have not made any demands with what they want at the UCCU Complex but have discussed their needs with town staff.

“We’re looking to do everything we can to make it professional and positive as can be,” said Spada.

Spada said talks have been about “how can we get the town to accommodate us and be as professional as can be.” Talks took the tone of seeing what they could and could not do, he said.

“We’re really looking forward to moving there and joining forces with the arena, staff and the town,” he said.

Spada said that Amherstburg has a great minor hockey system and estimated there are roughly ten players on the Comets that come from Amherstburg or LaSalle.

“They seem to develop quite a lot of talent there,” said Spada.

Attendance at local midget major games was an encouraging sign as Spada, who coached at that level with Donato in LaSalle, estimated there would be about 250 people in the stands when the two teams met in Amherstburg.

Town Logo Small-web There are 20 home games at the Jr. C level not including playoffs.

There is also a “name the team” contest envisioned if things go smoothly and the move from Kingsville is finalized.

OHA CEO Scott Farley said the relocation was approved in conjunction with the Great Lakes Jr. C league.

“We had a unique situation in Amherstburg in that we had a new application for a new team and a request to relocate of the team from Kingsville,” said Farley.

In the end, the fact the Kingsville group was already part of the OHA played a part in the decision.

“There’s a certain amount of leverage in being a current member,” said Farley, who stated the Kingsville group is a “good standing member of the OHA.”

Farley said the OHA is “excited to have junior hockey back in Amherstburg.” The UCCU Complex played a part in bringing the team to Amherstburg, said Farley, as he said the facility was cited in the relocation request and in the new application.

“We expect a smooth transition of the Kingsville team to Amherstburg,” he said.

Director of recreation and culture Dean Collver spoke favourably of the idea of welcoming a junior team.

“I think it’s safe to say that our department is excited about the idea of a junior presence in the building and very pleased that we are now in the active stages versus the very preliminary stages that preceded that OHA’s decision on the matter,” Collver stated.     “During the preliminary stages, we were looking forward to working alongside either of the applicant groups to establish a partnership, however, we were also very happy that the decision was the responsibility of the OHA rather than ours – it must have been very difficult with many things to consider.”

Town council will also be asked to advise administration on how to move forward.

“I think it is too early for us to speak much on the details within our discussions,” Collver stated.   “Before anything else happens we need to present council with a scope and overview that will allow them to give us direction on how to proceed.”

Collver believed a junior team could have numerous benefits.

“With our obvious and publicized efforts over the past year to attract tenants to the complex, and especially a junior hockey team, we are looking at this as a capacity-building opportunity to enhance the community, contribute to increases in non-tax revenues and round out the purpose of the complex,” he said.

Joe Shaw, a part of the local group that had applied for an expansion franchise, said there was some disappointment their application was turned down but added they feel no bitterness towards anyone.   While his group didn’t get the team, their goal was accomplished just the same.

“Our whole purpose when we started this three years ago was to get a junior team back in town,” he said.

Shaw said his group had solid financial backing, a strong plan and a lot of support and but it wasn’t meant to be for them. He added they do not have sour grapes towards the Kingsville group.

“I’m glad for the town,” he said. “Good luck to those guys. I wish them all the luck and hope they have success. I’m sure they’ll do the right things to make it work for the local guys. I’m happy we have a team. It’s good for the town.”

Amherstburg last had a Jr. C team in 1997.

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