ST. JOHN’S, NL – This past week, both the mayor of St. John’s and owner of the Newfoundland Growlers were scheduled to have press conferences regarding the progress of MileOne Centre negotiations for 2019-20.
Neither of those meetings took place, and it seems to be for the best.
Initially, conflicting news reports came out in regards to media availability from both Mayor Danny Breen and Growlers owner Dean MacDonald on Monday and Tuesday, respectively. One report said MacDonald was having the presser Tuesday morning, while another write-up stated Breen and MacDonald cancelled their announcements to continue negotiating in good faith. The latter has rung true, with the CBC reporting the city’s offer to decrease the amount of this year’s lease by 50 percent.
While the Toronto Maple Leafs training camp and festivities brought joy to the inhabitants of Newfoundland this past week, the dark cloud of relocation talks lingered over the province for months prior. Just one month after the Growlers lifted the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions, a July 9 CBC article stated that Newfoundland’s pro hockey team failed to turn a profit in their inaugural season. The city council also terminated an agreement to explore both the Growlers and Newfoundland Edge pro basketball team taking over operations of the MileOne Centre and St. John’s Convention Centre. MacDonald called the city’s proposal “not even close to serious” after they failed to provide sales numbers for basic items like food and drink.
News on this upcoming season’s lease negotiations went dark for almost two months until an eyebrow-raising tweet from MacDonald on August 27.
Cities investing in new arenas… great to see! pic.twitter.com/kZCFTOARi8
— Dean MacDonald (@DeanMacDonaldNL) August 27, 2019
In the photo above, MacDonald (left) is shown visiting the new hockey arena being built in Trois Rivieres, Quebec. The 4,000-seat facility was already rumored to potentially host an ECHL squad under the Montreal Canadiens affiliation tree, but this post on Twitter caused a frenzy of further speculation. Was MacDonald flirting with the idea of moving the Growlers to Quebec in 2020-21 (when the arena is scheduled for completion)? Or was this simply a bargaining ploy by MacDonald to get a better deal at MileOne?
In a piece ran by The Telegram just a couple days later, MacDonald talked about how he was “fed up” with the MileOne negotiations, and how the Trois Rivieres visit was to “consider alternatives” for the team moving forward. Another story from VOCM radio out of Newfoundland claimed the Growlers’ ownership group received a proposal that showed a 65 percent lease increase for the coming season.
Now, with all this news in the past, it seems that both parties are willing to hear each other out in the eleventh hour. While no official agreement has been made as of yet, one has to think both sides will hash things out before the puck drops at the season opener on October 11. As for 2020-21, one can only surmise if MacDonald will take the team to Quebec after his frustrations with the St. John’s City Council.