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When the news broke that the Hamilton Bulldogs AHL will be moving to St. John’s, almost immediately there has been a replacement club. The Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League will relocate to Hamilton and change their name to the Bulldogs.
The OHL is a part of the Canadian Hockey League, the dominant junior hockey league in Canada. The St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL will be moving to play in the home stadium of their parent club the Winnipeg Jets, allowing the Bulldogs to move to St. John’s where the Montreal Canadiens affiliate will now play.
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The Bulls will begin in Hamilton at the start of next season. “The Bulls have been part of the Belleville community for more than 30 years and we respect the role they have played in the community,” Canadian Hockey League president David Branch said to the Toronto Sun. “It is the OHL’s hope, along with other small cities in our league, that one day, under the right conditions, OHL hockey will return to Belleville.”
One of the reasons for the Bulls move could be their stadium that is 37 years old and hasn’t been refurbished for a while. Their arena lease is up at the end of 2014-2015, so the team sold to the Hamilton Bulldogs former owner Michael Andlauer who is losing his AHL club.
“Memories like the Calder Cup championship in 2007 and the Outdoor Classic game in 2012 are permanently entrenched in our minds and won’t soon be forgotten.” Andlauer said of the AHL Bulldogs in a statement.
Meanwhile, the St. John’s team might not last long for the Canadiens. They’d like to move the team to Quebec ideally, but building an arena in Laval, Quebec, won’t begin until 2017. They want to build a 10,000 seat arena and the Habs would much rather have their farm team that close by.
Hamilton won’t be back in the AHL soon, but the city will keep a minor hockey team. The OHL would like to see a team return to Belleville in the future, but that will likely not occur until the arena is replaced or fixed up a bit.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better group of billet families, education partners or supportive business partners and sponsors that have assisted us year after year without fail,” said a Bulls statement.“Active and responsible media partners and personalities have helped tell our story across the region for so many years. We have 34 years of Bulls alumni to thank for helping create memories for so many.”