There have been so many questions about the future of the Brampton Battalion that the relocation rumours probably get a believe-it-when-I-see-it reaction. There have been a few. So while it would be cute to lead off by saying it could very well be one season to cease-fire at the Bunker, it's still relatively early in the game.
Few can argue the Battalion have done well on the hockey operations side. However, they averaged an Ontario Hockey League-low 1,756 fans last season, more than 800 per game fewer than they did five seasons ago, even though they play in a fast-growing city whose population has surpassed 500,000.
Their rivals in the Peel Region, the Mississauga Steelheads, were sold and changed names one season after hosting a MasterCard Memorial Cup that was successfully executed, at least as a one-off event. This might have proven once and for all the OHL either hasn't captured the market in the Greater Toronto Area or there isn't a market to capture, period, full stop. Now the Battalion's lease with the Powerade Centre is up and the organization is basically done the fadeaway with Brampton city council's first offer. The deadline to sign is Aug. 31.
From Robin Inscoe:
Battalion team president Mike Griffin indicated on Tuesday that the team would not be meeting an Aug. 14 deadline in response to a proposal put forward by the Powerade Centre on Aug. 1.
"We have not responded to the Aug. 1 proposal," admitted Griffin. "And we won't put a firm date on it."
Griffin admitted that while the current deal needed to be renewed this month, his group was not in a position to do so at this time. (Brampton Guardian)
One probably should not run out and print North Bay Battalion T-shirts just yet. There's always a great deal of huffing and bluffing. The sticking points are capital improvements to the Powerade Centre and a " request to share revenue from such things as food and beverage sales during OHL events, suite licenses and advertising." The arena is not even 15 years old but has the more utilitarian feel of a 1970s building as opposed to the bells-and-whistles venues have been built since the 1990s, so it's not exactly adding value to the gameday experience.
At the end of the day, Battalion owner and Trivial Pursuit co-creator Scott Abbott, who's not looking to sell the team, is free to run the franchise as long as it's a member in good standing and the players' needs are looked after properly. There's plenty of potential for this to become a game of chicken — the city pointing out the ownership isn't forced to sell and the ownership saying it will move without saying where. Even Hamilton, Ont., just down Highway 403, isn't a credible landing site due to the lack of a suitable junior hockey venue.
According to Griffin he has two offers in his possession from undisclosed communities and is expecting a formal offer from a third in the near future.
"Until we have concluded discussions elsewhere, we are not in a position to compare apples to apples," said Griffin. "We won't be stuck to a time line."
And while Griffin calls discussions with the city and building 'cordial', he's admitted that he's unsure of what lays ahead.
"Flip a coin," said Griffin when asked where he'd lay his money if he was a betting man. "That's the same thing I told the mayor about a month ago."
It seems more like negotiations than anything else. Both sides want to see the colour of the other's money, pure and simple. The Battalion might not be able to convert the growth of their city into greater attendance, but they know that means the city might have money to spruce up its sports facilities.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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