Last night marked the return of the American hockey league to newfoundland for the first time in 6 years (when the St. John's Maple Leafs left for Ontario). While it's no secret that i have not been a fan of the political work of Danny Williams and his Conservative Government, i want to give him full credit for taking the lead on bringing this team here. When it was announced that the NHL's Atlanta franchise was moving to Winnpieg, Danny knew that the existing AHL team in Winnipeg would have to find a new home, so he went out a lobbied for this team to move here. In the end, not only did this team end up relocating, it also became the official minor pro affiliate to the Winnipeg team, and Danny was hired on as President and CEO.
In addition to being a feeder system to Winnipeg, the goal was set out to make the St.John's Ice Caps a credible and competitive team that would cater to the Newfoundland market. Danny and Co went out and signed 2001 Stanley Cup winning goalie David Abischer (who had left the NHL to play in Europe for the past 4 years). Furthermore, Jason King, a Newfoundland native, was signed to to the team. While both will hav a goal of getting promoted to the NHL, it will be fun and exciting to watch them play here in St. John's.
Tonight, the Ice Caps hosted their first eer home game, and the event started out with an awesome pre-game party outside the venue with a local band playing Newfoundland-style bluegrass/rock. Inside, there was an amazing pre-game ceremony that included a video tribute of the history of hockey in the province; as well as a ceremonial faceoff that included many historic greats, including Howie Meeker.
The game was actually stolen by the awesome play of the visiting team's goalie, who stopped 39 shots in his way to leading the Hamilton Bulldogs to a 4-0 win. But that did little to dampen the spirits of a sold out crowd of 6217 people.
i was fortunate enough to score a ticket to this special game. after attending many 'lasts' in sports history (i was there for the closing of the exhibition statdium in toronto, and the forum in montreal), it was nice to attend a 'first'.
So, i'll say it loud and clear, just to prove my lack of bias: thanks and congrats to Ice Caps President and CEO Danny Williams for bringing pro hockey back to Newfoundland!