Where Chatham-Kent Stands With The OHL
Where does Chatham-Kent actually stand with the OHL? Well, let’s look. Here are the things we know.
- In 1999, the Hunter’s wanted to bring an OHL team to Chatham. The Hunter’s now own the London Knights and the rest is history on that. In the past 5 years, the Niagara IceDogs, Erie Otters, and Plymouth Whalers have all expressed interest in relocating to Chatham. In one case, a multi-million dollar private investment was offered for one of the above teams, with suites already committed for by businesses when an arena was built. So, interest has, and still does, consistently exist for and with the OHL in Chatham-Kent.
- We need a new arena. Period. If an OHL team commits to Chatham-Kent, a new 5000-ish seat arena will be mandatory. As a community, fear in making another “Capitol Theatre” type mistake, in particular because this investment will cost $40-$50 million dollars. HOWEVER, let’s be brave. We are the only region around without brand new arenas. Also, there will be a mandatory 1-2 year span for the arena to be planned and built. It won’t drag on like the Capitol, because the tenant will be here, waiting, playing, earning revenue, and it will be a signed contract with the OHL to have a new facility ready.
- Chatham-Kent is too small? Wrong. Unfortunately we’re using the 2011 census, but let’s look at it. Smaller cities and municipalities with a Major Junior team include Red Deer, Kamloops, Lethbridge, Peterborough, Sault Ste. Marie, Sarnia, Prince George, Drummondville, Saint John, Moncton, Shawinigan, Belleville…shall I go on? We have the population for an OHL team. The number of people from CK that drive to London, Windsor, and Sarnia each week would be in the hundreds. Tack on the fact we’d get large visiting crowds from those cities, and we could be in business.
- What about our talent base? The OHL largely relies on players from outside a teams area to fill out their roster, however, often a few home grown players make their way onto an OHL team. Now more than ever, Chatham-Kent’s development stream is working. Last year in the OHL, the Overage Player of the Year and goal scoring leader (Dane Fox) came from Chatham-Kent, as did the OHL Rookie of the Year and first overall draft pick (Travis Konecny), and the OHL Scholastic Player of the Year (Patrick Watling) played in Chatham, and both went on to sign pro contracts. TJ Brodie is having a break out NHL season, and 21-year-old NHL rookie Seth Griffith, both grew up and developed in Chatham-Kent, and played in the OHL. This year, Brady Pataki, Joseph Raaymakers, James McEwan, Trent Fox, Kody Gagnon, and Brendan Johnston all stepped out of Chatham-Kent’s minor hockey programs and into the OHL, with several more drafted.
- There is another meeting coming. Chatham-Kent’s administration stated the Municipality will meet again with an OHL franchise before Christmas. That means, a meeting will take place in the next week and a half. Why? Likely because if a decision is going to be made, it will need to be made quickly, as the OHL’s relocation application date is December 31.
- The Plymouth Whalers have admitted they are “identifying available and viable markets,” should the team need to relocate. The team is looking, for now, or for the future. With plans to use the Whalers’ current facilities for the USA National Team Development Program, it would appear those plans will be sooner than later.
So where does Chatham-Kent stand with the OHL? To sum it up. CK is an option. The community is in continuous discussion. We have the fan base, but need an arena. The next few weeks should be telling in relation to this current OHL story, but even if this story doesn’t end in Chatham-Kent, it seems inevitable, that eventually, an OHL franchise will call Chatham-Kent home.