Laval can wait. The Hamilton Bulldogs aren't going anywhere for a while.
The Hamilton Bulldogs announced Friday the team has signed a new three-year lease at Copps Coliseum.
The team also renewed its affiliation with the Montreal Canadiens, with an option to allow the team to remain in Hamilton for an additional two years. The Canadiens have been the Bulldogs' parent club for the past 11 seasons.
"After nearly two years of discussion and crossing Ts — it's a pleasure for me to announce that the Bulldogs have agreed to a three-year lease extension with a two-year option with the city of Hamilton and Global Spectrum," said Bulldogs owner and chairman Michael Andlauer.
"These agreements ensure that in 2015-2016, the Bulldogs will celebrate their twentieth season in the great city of Hamilton."
The team has played in six conference finals, three Calder Cup finals and won its first Calder Cup back in 2007.
At Friday's press conference, Andlauer did bring up something of a sore point for many Hamiltonians — that originally, Copps was meant to house an NHL team.
"And to us Hamiltonians, it's been disappointing not to have an NHL club," he said. "But we should take some solace and pride in the fact that 170 Hamilton Bulldogs have played in the building and graduated to the NHL."
Case in point: there are 39 graduates of the Bulldogs playing in the NHL today.
At last Wednesday's highly touted Leafs/Habs bout at the Air Canada Centre, there were 12 players from the Bulldogs' system between both rosters — 10 of them skating for the Canadiens. Three of the goals scored came from Bulldogs grads, and the game-winning goal was netted by rookie Brendan Gallagher, who started this season with the Bulldogs and has been an integral part of the Canadiens' success of late.
"To grow and develop talent in your farm system you need first-class facilities, stability and strong support, and this is what the Bulldogs have enjoyed in Hamilton with Copps Coliseum, the community and great fans," Montreal Canadiens executive vice-president and general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement.
"We are very pleased that our partnership will continue for many years to come."
Speculation had been running rampant in the past year or so that the Bulldogs might be on the move to Laval, Que. In November, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson was in Laval to launch Place Bell, a $120-million sports complex that will include an arena. Place Bell is scheduled for completion in 2015.
'I don't know why we make it so hard for people to do business here.' —Bob Bratina, Mayor
Molson said the new arena will hold 10,000 spectators a game and be the home of a pro-level hockey team — but stopped short of saying that team would be the Bulldogs.
The OHL's Erie Otters were rumoured have interest in moving to Hamilton. In October, Paul Roper, media relations manager for the OHL franchise, told CBC Hamilton: "We have zero plans for anything like that at all."
Andlauer told CBC Hamilton in November that he had been frustrated by the whole process.
Mayor Bob Bratina seemed to share that frustration at Friday's press conference.
"Michael Andelaur has brought so much to the city of Hamilton, and had every reason to just pack up and leave over a number of issues that were going on," Bratina said.
"I don't know why we make it so hard for people to do business here — people who are good people."
Despite all the rumours, this deal has been hammered out in concert with Global Spectrum and Live Nation, which assumed control of Copps Coliseum on Friday.
"Global Spectrum and Live Nation, starting today, will do all we can to assist the Bulldogs in increasing awareness, and ultimately increasing sales," said Scott Warren, the new general manager of Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place with Global Spectrum and Live Nation.
"We look forward to doing everything possible to further enhance the legacy of the Bulldogs and hockey in Hamilton."
The Bulldogs have served as the primary tenant at Copps since the 1996-1997 season, making them the seventh longest tenured team in the AHL. Their next game is Friday night at home in Hamilton.