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Majors make it official

It's official. The Hershey Centre is now the home of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.

By: Dave Winer

June 6, 2007 - It's official.
The Hershey Centre is now the home of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors.
With the Ontario Hockey League’s Board of Governors approving the sale and transfer of the Mississauga IceDogs to Bill Burke yesterday, the Majors immediately announced what had been known for months: That they will vacate Toronto’s St. Michael’s Arena and move into the Hershey Centre in time for the 2007-08 season.
Being both rivals and the group responsible for the departure of the IceDogs to St. Catharines, the Majors’ front office realizes there will be a few bumps in the road when trying to win over fans.
“We’ll work on establishing ourselves in the community,” said Majors’ executive vice president Duncan Stauth. “It’s where we want to be. And (moving) is what we think we had to do.”
Not only are the Majors taking over the arena, they will also assume the IceDogs’ schedule, playing the majority of their home games on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons.
“There will be some doubters initially, but over the next year, they’ll see we’re for real.”
said Stauth. “I had an opportunity to talk to a lot of season ticket holders. Initially they were skeptical. St. Mike’s, after all, was their rival, but we’ll work on getting them back. They’re hockey fans first.”
Last season Stauth also doubled as the IceDogs' executive vice president with Eugene Melnyk owning both teams.
Involved with the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Mississauga Terriers for eight years and the Mississauga Rebels for four, Stauth also begrudgingly admitted, “Nobody was happy with the attendance in Mississauga (anyway). They never had a sell-out crowd.”
Stauth thinks that will change by, “building with credibility by over-devoting ourselves, rather than under devoting ourselves.”
And by bringing back Dave Cameron as the head coach and general manager after coaching the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League for three seasons, Stauth believes the on-ice leadership is in place.
Serving as the team’s assistant coach and assistant GM will be former IceDogs’ head coach Jim Hulton.
Stauth adds the team’s players are excited about leaving the old facility located near St. Clair and Bathurst St. in Toronto.
“They’re excited,” said Stauth. “I think they understand the tradition of St. Mike’s and they think it’s pretty neat to be coming to a first-class OHL venue.”
While the Majors just completed their 10th season in the OHL, producing four straight trips to the OHL’s Eastern Conference Final and two division crowns, the IceDogs lasted nine years in the city.
The short, yet turbulent history of the IceDogs, began in 1998-99 with the expansion team earning four wins against 56 losses.
Headed up by the colourful, controversial and sometimes confrontational Don Cherry, the IceDogs suffered through four disastrous seasons, which included 27 wins, to go along with a whopping 215 losses, 17 ties and 13 overtime losses.
However, with those losses came, through the draft, a number of talented players including Jason Spezza, Patrick O’Sullivan and Rob Schremp came on board.
The IceDogs began to turn the corner in the 2002-03 season, after the team was sold, when they finished out of the basement for the first time.
The following campaign, the IceDogs reached the playoffs and made it all the way to the OHL finals against Guelph.
This past season, with the IceDogs, despite knowing they were part of a lame duck organization not long for the Hershey Centre and Mississauga, posted the best record in franchise history, winning 43 games against 21 losses and four overtime losses.
Keeping the team unified throughout was team captain Jordan Owens, who won the Fans’ Choice, Overage Player and Most Valuable Player awards at the team’s banquet last month.
Ironically, the 21-year-old Owens was born in the Niagara region in Niagara Falls.
“I’d have a million dollars if I had a dollar for every distraction we have as players. But we didn’t let the distractions hold us back from having a great season.”
Despite all the awards and honours bestowed on Owens during his career with the IceDogs, Owens says one overshadows the rest.
“The highlight was being named captain,” he said. “I’ll go down as the final captain of the Mississauga IceDogs.”
Now a new era begins with the Majors.
When Melnyk purchased the IceDogs on July 12, 2006, it was for the sole purpose of moving his other franchise out of St. Michael’s Arena and into a new and modern facility.
It would be nice if the 'St. Mikes' were dropped and the team simply took on the name Mississauga Majors.
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