Where Chatham-Kent Stands With The OHL

Joseph Raaymakers Hockey

Joseph Raaymakers is one of several Chatham-Kent products playing in the OHL this season – Photo by Aaron Bell/ OHL Images

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.

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  • comment-avatar
    Brent 6 years

    i think Chatham has plenty of open vacant lots (navistar, former golds junk yard, wheels inn….) it would be a smart investment in the city’s future. I can’t for the life of me understand why they have turned the offer/option done so many times in the past, I say spend the money build an OHL arena an enjoy some great hockey!! It’s not like we don’t need a new one anyways…

  • comment-avatar
    Rocky Gaudrault 6 years

    Frankly,

    We don’t need a $40MM-$50MM Arena to get the job done… That 40-50MM would be to compete at the Windsor stage with venues needed to make things add up. a more manageable $30MM Arena to just be Sarnia Sting style would both get the job done and allow all invested in making things add up. Add a possible other type of sport (who knows… lacrosse, etc.) to the mix as a complimentary sport and voila, things add up quickly.

    Arenas aren’t a uni-sport structure so lets put our hats together and make this a reality once and for all and help grow CK!!!!

    • comment-avatar
      My View 6 years

      Just to add, we have two aging arena’s that are nearing the end of their life cycles. So the replacement of at least one aging rink will cost us at least $15MM for a basic rink (not even Jr B suitable), the cost is even higher for a 2000 seat rink to replace memorial, both would not generate any spin-off like an arena that housed an OHL team would. So is the added $5-10MM to upgrade to an OHL suitable arena worth it? My answer would be yes, we will need to pay in the either way, do it the right way now. A way that thinks of CK as an advancing community rather than a dying one.

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    Robert Johnston 6 years

    I think that it’s long overdue that Chatham have a JR A franchise. I am a former Chatham Maroon and Windsor Spitfire from the days of the SOJHL and in those days we packed the rink. However, for a franchise to relocate to Chatham and to become the top hockey draw doesn’t sit well with me as the Maroons have a long and proud history that I am honoured to be a part of. If Chatham is going to have an OHL franchise it should be offered to the current owners of the Maroons first as they are going to be the ones that suffer the most. To transplant a failing franchise and ignore the Maroons is ridiculous in my mind !