“We Welcome An OHL Team,” Says Mayor Hope
“We’ve had OHL teams around and continue to have OHL teams around,” says Mayor Hope, who said Plymouth is one of several teams who have shown interest in Chatham in recent years. “A business plan needs to be worked out, and there are a number of variables that need to be discussed.”
In terms of what OHL team or teams have been in Chatham-Kent, and remain in contact with Mayor Hope and community partners, the Mayor is remaining hushed, however he did confirm meetings are ongoing, and believes Chatham-Kent is an ideal destination for an OHL franchise looking to relocate.
“From hockey perspective it makes sense. We have a lot of hockey talent coming out of the area, take a look at Seth Griffith from Wallaceburg. Hockey is born out of our local communities, and we have a strong support for the Junior teams we have,” says Hope.
Hope believes Chatham would make a perfect addition to the OHL, creating natural rivalries and acting as a healthy boost to the league.
“With Windsor, London, and Sarnia surrounding us, it’s a big market. There are strong business cases that support it from the OHL’s side. We’ve been in meetings, and continue to meet with organizations, looking at obstacles and opportunities.”
Although the Mayor was not caught off guard when Senior NHL Writer for ESPN The Magazine Craig Custance Tweeted about Plymouth Whalers owner Peter Karmanos saying “Hopefully Chatham,” in reference to his team’s potential relocation, the announcement did surprise many.
According to Custance, who contacted CKSN.ca Monday, his discussion with Karmanos about the Whalers’ relocation was brief, as part of a larger conversation about NHL expansion. Karmanos however did provide Custance with a justification for the move.
“The Whalers portion of my conversation with Peter Karmanos was at the tail end of a longer conversation we were having about expansion and the NHL,” wrote Custance to CKSN. “He said junior hockey in a major metropolitan city was a tough sell with the Red Wings so close: “It was continually a battle to break even there.”
While Karmanos’ past tense reference to the Plymouth Whalers would suggest a move is a done deal, a move to Chatham still has a few major hurdles, namely, Council approving the investment for a new OHL sized arena, something Mayor Hope says is a must for rumours to become reality.
“We welcome an OHL team here,” says Hope. “It’s about creating a business case, and balancing the books. Whatever agreement may come, we still need to see if the capital investment will be sanctioned by council moving forward.”