Saint John, St. John's awarded QMJHL franchises

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League will add two new franchises to the fold next season as St. John's, Nfld., and Saint John, N.B., were awarded expansion teams on Wednesday.

The QMJHL, one of three major junior hockey leagues in the Canadian Hockey League, is growing from 16 to 18 teams. Once an all-Quebec league, the QMJHL now has eight teams based outside the province, including seven in Atlantic Canada and one in Lewiston, Me.

Major junior hockey players range in age from 16-20.

With the two new Quebec league clubs, there will now be 58 teams in the CHL. Both the Ontario and Western hockey leagues have 20 teams each.

Businessmen Derm and Craig Dobbin were the successful bidders in a three-way race for the St. John's franchise. The other two groups bidding for the team were JCT Enterprises and St. John's Sports and Entertainment, which runs Mile One Stadium.

In Saint John, Scott McCain and Wayne Long were the lone bidders from the city after merging with a competing group and former Saint John Flames owner Nick Georgoudis dropped out of the running.

Both bids will pay a $3-million expansion fee.

Saint John will play at the 6,150-seat Harbour Station arena, while St. John's is expected to play at the 6,250-seat Mile One Stadium, currently in use by the Toronto Maple Leafs' American Hockey League team, which is moving next season.

However, the Dobbin group has expressed interest in having the team play out of Mount Pearl, Nfld.

The Halifax Mooseheads became the first expansion team in the Quebec league in 1994. Since then, the QMJHL has added clubs in Cape Breton, Moncton and Bathurst, N.B., and most recently in Charlottetown.

with files from Canadian Press