Basically to summarize, Anthony LeBlanc, vice-president of global sales for RIM and Thunder Bay native would like to own an OHL franchise (or possibly a WHL franchise, but he seems more intent on an OHL franchise) and run it in Thunder Bay in a brand new 6,000-7,000 seat arena (currently the biggest arena holds about 3,400).
This project, he admits, is in its preliminary stages and has some obvious hurdles, but hurdles he believes can be overcome.
Never say never. The NAHL has teams in Alaska that have to travel distances that far exceed what Thunder Bay would have to.
That being said, the only way the Tbay could ever work would obviously be
a) to fly the team to southern ontario for games rather than bus it. I don't think it's even possible not to, but could imagine trying to lure prospects to play in Thunder Bay with those bus trips? LOL
b) to subsidize teams that would have to fly there for away games, similar to what the NAHL does (and the recently failed St. John's Fog Devils - a definite point to consider).
This team would have to have owners with deeeep pockets, but I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility.
Thunder Bay is a great hockey market that has produced some phenomenal players and teams over the years. It's too bad it's geographically handicapped when it comes to the OHL and WHL.
Travel time anyone? Thunder Bay is closer to Brandon, Manitoba than it is to every single OHL team save Sault. St. Marie:
(According to Mapquest)
TBay - SSM = 445 miles
TBay - Brandon = 580 miles
TBay - Sudbury = 625 miles
TBay - Saginaw = 690 miles
TBay - Plymouth = 781 miles
TBay - Sarnia = 791 miles
TBay - Barrie = 802 miles
The closest CHL team is 445 miles away. It's NOT feasible...or at the very least not practical.
Oh sure, pick the one team in the WHL that Thunder Bay is closest too. Now lets try Brandon to Spokane, Vancouver and Kelowna? Suddenly Thunder Bay doesn't seem so far away from Southern Ontario.
What makes you think its not feasible? Teams would go on road trips up to Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie, then it's only 6 hours to TBay, which is nothing (although, I'm from Western Canada, so maybe to Southern Ontarians 6 hours is a big drive).
Anyway, you dismiss this WAY too early. You just have to change your mindset about what is reasonable for travelling. If a WHL team can travel over 2,000 KM, why can't, say Mississauga travel 1300 KM?
I don't believe we should discount T-Bay just because they aren't that close to other OHL/WHL cities. In away that's punishing them for being so far away from everyone else. I know that the atmosphere at Lakehead games are great, so if that can transfer over into OHL/WHL, why not T-Bay?
I could see it working if they were to play a sort of baseball schedule where their weekend homestands would all be three game series against the same team so visiting teams would only have to make one trip.
But yeah, they'd need a deep pocketed owner and/or draw extremely well at the gate in a new arena to pay the travel costs.
A franchise in TBay could easily work. Yes travel is an issue but let's not forget how far some of the WHL or USHL teams for example travel. Look at a USHL trip from Youngstown to Fargo...nearly 1700kms. Population in TBay is VERY good! Just make back to back games and 'Northern' trips and you're good.
I would think, given the right financial and transportation decisions, it could work. It wouldn't be easy, but if Brandon can make it to Vancouver, Spokane, and Portland, TBay can make it to Ottawa and Erie.