Today, the Maritime Junior Hockey League formally announces the transfer of the Dieppe Commandos franchise to the city of Edmundston, New Brunswick. This transfer will become effective at the end of the 2016-17 MHL season.
Several key members of the proposed Edmundston franchise group met before the Board of Governors in early October. Following an in-depth presentation and discussion, the Board elected to allow the transfer to take place. A press conference announcing this decision was held in Edmundston today.
MHL President Brian Whitehead echoed the opinion of the Board of Governors.
“The league’s Board of Governors were very impressed with both the detail and professionalism of the Edmundston group’s presentation,” Whitehead explained. “They are clearly passionate about the game and their desire to join the MHL. Although the relocation of a franchise is never an easy decision and the success of the Dieppe Commandos on the ice should in no way be discounted, this is a great day for the league as we welcome an exciting new group to the MHL.”
The city of Edmundston is home to over 16,000 residents, with approximately 100,000 people living within a 100- kilometer radius of the city. A long time senior hockey hotbed, Edmundston is anxiously awaiting the completion of a new amphitheatre, the Jean-Daigle Centre, in the fall of 2017. The rink, currently under construction will be able to accommodate over 2400 people for hockey. It will be located on the site of Édupôle, which consists of the Edmundston Sports Pavilion, the Université de Moncton Edmundston Campus, the Edmundston campus of the New Brunswick Community College and the Cité des Jeunes A.-M.-Sormany High School.
Bringing the MHL to Edmundston is a group led by a number of local residents with experience in several backgrounds including business, hockey operations, education, communications and administration. Several key roles within the organization have already been determined, with Team Presidency duties being handled by Andre LeBel. LeBel has a long history in both hockey and business in the Edmundston area. After a successful Jr.A career in Quebec, LeBel suited up for the senior level Edmundston Eskimos and Saint-Basile Aces. A member of several local committees and community initiatives, LeBel is also the retired CEO of the Caisses Populaires Trois Rives.
“It’s a great day for Edmundston,” LeBel proclaimed. “There is no doubt as to our community’s passion for hockey and there is no doubt as to the suitability of our new amphitheatre as a home arena for this team. We made a strong proposal with a strong group of stakeholders and we are more than ready to welcome this team and the MHL to Edmundston.”
The Commandos are currently in their ninth season in Dieppe. The franchise traces its roots to the Moncton Beavers of the now defunct New Brunswick Junior Hockey League. Founded in 1959, the team made the move to what is now the MHL in 1983 as the Moncton Hawks, becoming the first team from outside Nova Scotia to join what was then known as the Metro-Valley Junior Hockey League. Since moving to Dieppe in 2008, the Commandos have made three appearances in the MHL Finals (2014-16), won the Kent Cup as league playoff champions in 2015 and have participated in two Fred Page Cups, including 2009 when they were the host team.
“When we moved the Moncton Beavers to Dieppe nine years ago, it was our objective to maintain the tradition of Jr.A hockey in the area. At that time, it was not possible from an economic standpoint for the Beavers to remain in Moncton. Unfortunately, the same thing has happened in Dieppe,” said Commandos Team Owner and Governor Jean-François Damphousse. “The support we hoped would materialize over time never occurred, even with a successful team on the ice over the past number of seasons. The hockey competition from the QMJHL, AUS and Midget programs, not to mention the competition for entertainment dollars in general, makes the ability for the Commandos’ program to continue impossible. Hopefully, someday, the MHL will return to the Greater Moncton area as this is an excellent brand of hockey and one that has been well supported in the area in the past. I know the franchise will be in excellent hands in Edmundston and I look forward to assisting their ownership group as they enter the league.”
Damphousse will remain with the franchise in Edmundston as a consultant. Other current members of the Commandos staff remaining with the franchise include General Manager Steve MacPherson and Recruitment Director Michel Gauvin.
Further information regarding the relocation of the Dieppe Commandos franchise to Edmundston will become available at future intervals.
Will MacLaren – themhl.ca