Wednesday, April 25, 2012

St. Albert Junior Hockey Fate To Be Decided:

As I'm sure plenty of our readers are aware, there are a few teams around Western Canada that are dealing with the potential of relocation, including the AJHL's St. Albert Steel. Should the Steel be moving, there is a good chance it will be Whitecourt, a industry-minded community about an hour and a half Northwest of Edmonton. The AJHL will meet May 3rd in Red Deer to vote on the relocation of the Steel to the home of the Wolverines, an NWJHL club that most recently picked up a bronze medal at the Keystone Cup in Saskatoon.

Here is the release from the Edmonton Journal on Tuesday:

EDMONTON - Barring a significant breakthrough, St. Albert is about to lose its junior A hockey team for the second time in less than a decade.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League’s St. Albert Steel applied in late March for relocation to Whitecourt for the 2012-13 season.
The request, which was submitted by Steel owner Greg Parks (who was unavailable for comment Monday), came after the team was unable to reach an agreement with the City of St. Albert to extend the lease agreement at Servus Credit Union Place. The agreement expires on Aug. 31.
The AJHL set up a relocation committee to look at the situation.
“We will have a full board meeting on May 2 in Red Deer to discuss the findings of the relocation meeting and I would assume, at that time, (league) chairman Greg Wood will probably call a vote on the relocation request,” AJHL president Craig Cripps said. “Unless something drastic happens in that meeting, I would expect that a vote would be taken. To garner a relocation, the Steel will have to have two-thirds of the support of the governors.
St. Albert lost the Saints to Spruce Grove after 27 seasons in 2004. Now the city is in danger of also having the Steel leave after five seasons.
“I can tell you that the committee has done a good job as far as following the protocols and what information has to be submitted,” said Cripps.
The relocation committee has talked to all parties involved, including St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse, who presented the city’s side of the debate earlier this month.
“The municipality certainly thinks it’s doing all that it can to keep the franchise in St. Albert, but obviously, if there’s two groups, both the team and the city have to think it’s beneficial to both,” Cripps said. “Certainly (the mayor) was doing what he needed to do from the standpoint of being the mayor of the city, not wanting to lose the team.”
St. Albert, which hasn’t been in lease negotiations with the Steel since Parks filed for relocation, awaits the league’s decision.
“I will allow the process to go forward, because it’s a process that is intended to be based on supposed objectivity by the board of governors and they have to make that decision,” Crouse said.
Whitecourt mayor Trevor Thain hasn’t spoken with the AJHL during the process, but was cautiously optimistic about scoring a junior A team after a failed bid to attract the Lloydminster franchise a year ago.
“At that time, we met with the AJHL and gave our support for that move, however, that move didn’t come about, but it gave the AJHL the opportunity to take a look at our community and what we have to offer,” Thain said. “They thought it would be a really good fit for a junior A team to come here.
“We’re a great hockey town. People love their hockey here and we have a great hockey program. We have a hockey school here and it’s really well supported by the community at large.”
As for St. Albert’s recent struggles to hold down a franchise, Cripps realizes that AJHL teams near major markets are fighting an uphill battle.
“I know through discussions with our governors in St. Albert, Sherwood Park and Spruce Grove that being close to big cities for junior A hockey is difficult,” Cripps said. “They try hard, but there’s a lot of competition for that entertainment dollar.”
Cripps was clear that when it comes to franchise movement, the AJHL is focused on following the strict protocols which have been set out over the last several seasons.
“If we are going to move franchises, the AJHL isn’t about skipping from community to community. We take pride in how we operate and certainly want to make sure we’re following a process here.”

I also decided to put together my own concept jersey of what the Whitecourt team may look like if they keep the name Steel but expand to the modern-LA Kings uniform design. Enjoy :)

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