ECHL confirms hockey franchise for St. John's

The league confirmed news reported by CBC last week.

Hockey to return to Mile One Centre in partnership with owners of Edge basketball team

The as-yet unnamed team will be on the ice later this year, according to Tuesday's announcement. (Geoff Bartlett/CBC)

The board of governors of the ECHL has confirmed the approval of an expansion hockey team for St. John's.

In an announcement Tuesday, the league said play will resume at Mile One Centre for the 2018-19 season.

The city of St. John's said the ECHL has agreed to a minimum of 36 games per season for three years, beginning this fall.

"Good news for the city, good news for Mile One, good news for downtown," said Mayor Danny Breen.

As reported by CBC News on March 7, the St. John's franchise will be owned by Deacon Investments, a group controlled by businessman Dean MacDonald.

Glenn Stanford, who was president of the IceCaps, an American Hockey League franchise, will oversee team operations.

"We think hockey works here. We felt that pro hockey was what people here would support. We think that the ECHL product is a good product," Stanford told CBC News.

"We are working towards a partnership with the Toronto Maple Leafs. We still have to work towards that, I don't want to mislead people to think that it's done. We have to work towards an affiliation agreement — that'll be the next step in the process."

Glenn Stanford is with the partnership that will run a new ECHL franchise out of Mile One in St. John's. (Jeremy Eaton)

The hockey team will work in a partnership with the owners of the St. John's Edge basketball team, Irwin Simon and Rob Sabbagh.

The Edge will continue to play a minimum of 20 home games per season.

"I think that speaks well for the community that you've got two sports teams that are working together for the good of the community," Stanford said.

Breen said the owners of the hockey and basketball teams have also agreed to pursue a potential management agreement for both Mile One and the Convention Centre, which are currently run by St. John's Sports and Entertainment. 

The road to securing a hockey deal has had its rough patches. In January, Edge owners asked for arbitration in a dispute over the timeline related to first rights to secure a team for Mile One.

According to the ECHL announcement, the unnamed St. John's hockey team will play in the North Division. The league has also approved the Maine Mariners in that division.