Nfld. & Labrador

Newfoundland Growlers owner signs agreement for new ECHL team in Quebec

The Newfoundland Growlers aren't going anywhere, but Dean MacDonald hopes to ice another ECHL team for the 2021-22 season.

Growlers staying put in St. John's, says Dean MacDonald

Dean MacDonald and Glenn Stanford, pictured here at the new arena under construction in Trois-Rivières in August 2019, are another step closer to landing a second ECHL team. (Dean MacDonald/Twitter)

Dean MacDonald is taking an unusual step in professional sports — he's going to own two teams in the same league, probably even the same division.

The St. John's businessman already owns the Newfoundland Growlers, and on Thursday it was announced he's also behind the ECHL's planned expansion to a city in Quebec.

MacDonald — along with his management group that includes his right-hand man in St. John's, Glenn Stanford — has signed an tentative agreement with the city council in Trois-Rivières, Que., to take over a new arena and bring in the ECHL.

It's likely the new team would be in the league's northern division, along with the only other two Canadian teams, and travel to St. John's often.

"Hopefully it creates a great rivalry," MacDonald said on Friday. "Let's be clear. I'm going to be cheering for the Growlers through and through."

The Newfoundland Growlers won the ECHL's Kelly Cup in the team's first season. (Newfoundland Growlers/Twitter)

When asked about any benefits the move would bring to the Growlers, MacDonald said it would cut down on the subsidy the Newfoundland team has to pay to bring other teams in to play.

The new team would likely be affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, meaning MacDonald and Stanford's group would have ECHL affiliates for the Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rumours have swirled around St. John's during tense negotiations between the Growlers and City of St. John's that MacDonald was shopping the franchise in Trois-Rivières.

Now with preliminary assurances in Quebec, MacDonald says the Growlers are staying put. The ECHL's board of governors will be voting on introducing a new franchise, he said, and not relocating his other team from St. John's.

MacDonald said he was able to get a good deal in Quebec, and that negotiating an agreement was easier than in St. John's, where his team's struggles were well known.

Growlers owner Dean MacDonald says having a second team in the same division has its advantages when it comes to travel costs. (Paula Gale/CBC)

It made it easier that the Quebec city has a new arena, and no experience running it. They've turned over the reins to MacDonald, giving him full control of events, promotions and concessions.

The Growlers ownership group has been seeking a similar deal in St. John's to take control of Mile One Centre, but settled instead on a 10-year lease.

"We're bringing some energy and help to [Trois-Rivières], and we've struck a deal I would say the economic is certainly better for us because it gives us more avenues to make the economics work," MacDonald said.

The board of governors vote is expected to go well for Trois-Rivières whenever it goes ahead. The city hopes to ice a team by the beginning of the 2021-2022 season.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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