Bathurst — After years of struggling with record-low attendance, ownership troubles and a lack of success on the ice, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan hockey club has decided to relocate to Sable Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia, in an effort to gain stability and stay viable.
The QMJHL franchise, which relocated to the K.C. Irving Centre in Bathurst from Laval, Que., in 1998, is falling on hard times in Northern New Brunswick as the faltering economy and aging population is drying up the club’s usual revenue streams. A spokesperson for the Titan said these factors are forcing the club’s hand, making a move to greener pastures the only available option for the team.
“Sable Island offers us an exciting new market for Titan hockey,” the spokesperson said. “It hurts to say goodbye to the city of Bathurst and our fans here in the Acadian Peninsula, but the team needs a growing market with a brighter future.”
The news has been met with shock and sadness among the Titan faithful.
“Now where will I go on Saturday nights when I need to have a coffee and read the paper somewhere quiet that’s not too warm?” said season-ticketholder Jean-Paul LeBlanc, 71.
“What will all the players do now?” asked Michel Paulin, 68. “They are just teenagers for the most part; I don’t want them roaming around the city at night now — I thought the whole point of the hockey thing was to get them off the streets.”
The Titan had known some success in its early years, winning a league championship in 1999 and launching the careers of NHL stars like Patrice Bergeron, François Beauchemin and goaltender Roberto Luongo — but a downward spiral in attendance that began in the mid-2000s was more than the club could overcome. Bathurst couldn’t compete with cities in Southern New Brunswick, which lured away residents with luxuries like Costco, and the buffet at Casino NB — favourites among the city’s older, francophone population.
As for the Titan’s new home, the 34-square-kilometre Sable Island has already completed all the necessary prep work to play host to a major junior hockey team. A small stretch of the island has been put aside for use as an outdoor rink, and 2 dozen fold-out camping chairs have been set up to accommodate the influx of new fans. Plans are also underway to offer free rides with the fabled Sable Island Horses during intermissions, and free T-shirt giveaways once staff find a way to shoot them out of their T-shirt cannon without shooting them completely off the island.
They have also sold 5 season tickets, a 500 percent increase from their time in Bathurst.
While the Titan are not officially set to begin play on Sable Island until the 2016-17 season, the team has already packed their equipment and set up shop in their new home, playing several home games of the season already. At press time, nobody from Bathurst was aware the team had left already.