Canadiens' AHL team moving from Hamilton to St. John's: reports

According to the Winnipeg Free Press, there's a "strong chance" the Winnipeg Jets will move their AHL affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps, to the MTS Centre this fall, and that a deal has been struck for Montreal to move its AHL club from Hamilton to St. John's.

'Strong chance' Jets will move IceCaps to Winnipeg

The IceCaps, seen here celebrating a victory against the Hamilton Bulldogs in November, could be headed to Winnipeg this fall, while there's talk the Bulldogs, the Montreal Canadiens' AHL affiliate, could move to St. John's. (St. John's IceCaps)

A new report says there's a "strong chance" that the Winnipeg Jets will move its AHL affiliate team, the St. John's IceCaps, to the MTS Centre this fall  and that a deal has been struck for the Montreal Canadiens' farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, to take the IceCaps' place in Newfoundland.

The Winnipeg Free Press says True North Sports & Entertainment had granted the IceCaps a one-year extension in September, to take the team through the 2015-2016 season.

The extension was partially given so that Danny Williams, the president and chief executive officer of the IceCaps, could find a replacement AHL team for Mile One Centre in St. John's.

The paper also says the St. John's group is believed to have struck an arrangement with the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, who operate their AHL affiliate in Hamilton, Ont., and that the board of governors could approve the new deal at a meeting next week.

Officials for the St. John's IceCaps said they are not commenting at this time. The Bulldogs released a brief statement.

"We are aware of the reports but at this point nothing is official," it said. "We don’t want to add to the speculation with unconfirmed and inaccurate information. What we can tell you is that (Bulldogs owner and chairman) Michael Andlauer has been committed to our community, the fans and hockey in the city of Hamilton for over a decade and that will not change moving forward. We have no further comment at this time."

Donald Beauchamp, the Montreal Canadiens' senior vice-president of communications, also kept mum.

"We’re aware of the reports that are out there and we cannot confirm anything," he said. 

"Until there is more information, we cannot make any further comment."

A Bulldogs move would be a blow to Hamilton, a city that's always held out hope for an NHL team. 

The Bulldogs signed a three-year extension of its lease with the city for its home venue, FirstOntario Place, in 2013. The agreement, which included venue manager Global Spectrum, came with a two-year option. 

"These agreements ensure that in 2015-2016, the Bulldogs will celebrate their twentieth season in the great city of Hamilton," Andlauer said then.

There has also been speculation in recent years that the Bulldogs might be on the move to Laval, Que. A new $120-million sports complex in Laval is scheduled to be finished this year.

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