St. John's looks to junior hockey

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

Goodbye Baby Buds, hello budding NHLers.

With the St. John's Maple Leafs poised to bolt for Toronto's Ricoh Coliseum after the 2004-05 season, there has been plenty of bitterness throughout Newfoundland at the impending disappearance of the province's lone professional sports team.

But disappointment has been replaced by encouragement on the Rock after the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced plans to locate franchises in both St. John's and Saint John, N.B.

"There is no doubt it is good news," said Glenn Stanford, who oversees the operations of the Baby Leafs for St. John's Sports and Entertainment. "It has caused excitement throughout town during the past week.

"Season-ticket holders already have been calling about next season and so have corporate sponsors, which are vital to the survival of any franchise."

QMJHL officials will meet in Montreal this weekend to determine conditions of the franchises, including expansion fees and travel subsidies. It is believed the price will be about $3 million.

Three groups are bidding for the St. John's franchise. St. John's Sports and Entertainment, which runs Mile One Stadium on behalf of the city, is the favourite of politicians, but it will get strong competition from a pair of private-sector bids.

Should either JCT Enterprises or local developer Derm Dobbin be awarded the franchise, a lease deal must be reached with the city for the use of Mile One Stadium.


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