Saint John AAA hockey team moving to Quispamsis to grow

The top youth hockey team in Saint John is leaving the city as part of a plan to grow its hockey program.

Team will play Friday nights at the qplex

The president of the top youth hockey team in Saint John says the team is moving out of the city as part of a plan to grow.

The Major Midget Vito's is moving to the qplex in neighbouring Quispamsis, after 30 years of playing at the Lord Beaverbrook Rink in the city's north end.

Grant Brenan, the team president, says he wants to run programs 11 months of the year.

"We were trying to do what some of the other big centres do in Halifax and some places like Charlottetown," he said.

"We're just trying to make sure that we stay on a level playing field with everyone else that we're competing against out there."

The team, which draws players from St. Stephen to Sussex, is also considering changing its name, said Brenan.

And it will be playing on Friday nights at its new location, instead of Saturday afternoons, which Brenan hopes will help attract bigger crowds and create a more exciting atmosphere.

Aaron Kennedy, the marketing manager for the qplex, said he believes the new location will also help attract new fans.

"I think you'll probably see that there will be people who will come to the games at the qplex who have probably never been to a midget triple-A game in their lives," he said.

"There's been a lot of things on the go and we think the major midget team is just the next logical step.

"We can't wait for them to get started next month and hopefully make the qplex the place to be on Friday nights to come see some good major midget hockey."

The first game is scheduled for Sept. 21. Ticket prices remain $5 each.

The Vito's compete in the six-team New Brunswick/Prince Edward Island major midget AAA league against Fredericton, Moncton, Miramichi, Charlottetown and Cornwall, with a 34-game regular season schedule.

The team has signed a five-year deal with the qplex, which offers a National Hockey League-sized arena. The $24.5-million facility opened last year.

Saint John council recently commissioned a report to look into whether upgrading the 50-year-old Lord Beaverbrook Rink to Olympic size and standards would be feasible.

The renovations would cost at least $3.4-million, according to the report.

City staff have recommended council hold off on the costly project, given the city's fiscal restraints and other pending expenses.

The existing rink surface measures 190 feet long by 85 feet wide. An Olympic expansion would increase the size to 200 feet long by 98.5 feet wide.