St. Stephen, N.B. feeling the departure of local hockey team
It’s been six months since the only game in town left the town of St. Stephen, N.B.
For the first season since opening its doors, no Maritime Junior A hockey players are hitting the ice at the Garcelon Civic Centre.
“These weekends are so quiet now,” says St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern. “The last few weekends we would have had hockey.”
That changed in April, when the Maritime Hockey League announced the St. Stephen Aces franchise would be moving to Fredericton.
MacEachern says it was a devastating blow to the Southwestern New Brunswick community known as ‘bordertown’.
“It has slowed the facility down; it’s slowed the traffic in the town on the weekends. Like I said, we need events like that in this small town,” explains MacEachern.
Terry Dempsey, the President of the St. Stephen Area Chamber of Commerce says the games were a big draw for both locals and out-of-town spectators, and now businesses in the area are starting to notice the effects.
“The typical hockey night would see the streets, every parking lot full of cars for a long ways,” explains Dempsey. “That’s very noticeable, and that’s not the case anymore. There’s a couple of popular restaurants that you can notice it’s impacted their business.”
The Garcelon Civic Centre opened up in November of 2014. It was a nearly $20-million project funded through all three levels of government.
The Aces were the facility’s main, anchor tenant, and now the facility is left without one.
But Mayor MacEachern believes St. Stephen can support a hockey franchise, and there is a community push to bring one back to the Civic Centre.
“This is a hockey town, and there’s a lot of fans that miss it,” explains MacEachern. “We had a rally there a little more than a week ago, and an unbelievable turnout for that. They weren’t showing up to a hockey game, they were turning out hopeful to have a hockey team.”
“There is work going on to bring another hockey team to their place so hopefully that will come to fruition in the near future,” adds Dempsey.
MacEachern says there are ongoing talks with investors interested in bringing a Junior A hockey team back to St. Stephen and the Garcelon Civic Centre, but at this point, nothing has been set in stone yet.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Laura Lyall.