Centennials On The Move

By Brad Coccimiglio

After 20 years, the city of North Bay is losing their junior hockey franchise.

The announcement was made this morning at an 11 a.m. news conference. Centennials co-owner has sold the team to a Saginaw, Michigan group that is headed by Wren Blair and Richard J. Garber.

Garber is the owner and president of Garber Management Group, which operates Garber Buick as well as seven other car companies in Michigan, Illinois and Florida.

Through their first 15 home games this season the Centennials have reportedly lost around $5000 per game and over the past several seasons have lost more than $200,000 per season. The team was averaging 2,298 fans per home game through the end of November. Only the Kingston Frontenacs, Toronto St. Michael’s Majors and Brampton Battalio have averaged less fans per game.

The Centennials will play out of the 6,000 seat Saginaw County Event Center next fall. The arena underwent a $14 million American renovation project recently as well.

This isn’t the first time that the Centennial franchise has been sold or re-located. The franchise entered the OHL as the St. Catharines Blackhawks in 1973-74, then moved to Niagra Falls before the 1976-77 season before moving to North Bay in 1982-83.

New co-owner Wren Blair had initially attemted to bring an expansion OHL franchise to the city of Saginaw but was turned down. The city was reportedly on a list of possible sites for the OHL to expand to but when Blair attempted to bring a franchise to the city the OHL was not yet ready for another expansion.

Blair has been involved in the OHL before as he was involved in the ownership of the Kingston Frontenacs for 11 years beginning in the late 1980’s.

The sale of the team still has to be approved by the OHL’s board of governers. The next scheduled board of governers meeting is on Jan. 15th in Ottawa.

The re-location will also mean realignment for the OHL. The Centennials are currently in the Eastern Conference but after they re-locate they will move to the Western Conference. It is thought that either Brampton or Erie will be the team that moves to the Eastern Conference. Also, Saginaw will compete in the West Division while the London Knights will reportedly move to the Midwest Division.