Saint John — After years of petitions and legal wrangling, the Halifax Mooseheads hockey franchise is finally making the move to Saint John. The decision by the league ruling body settles a long-running dispute between the two municipalities over hosting rights and access to the lucrative merchandising contracts.
Halifax, although the original host city to the team, lost out in the end to Saint John, home of Moosehead Breweries, a roaring beer trade and crippling unemployment.
“We’ve always seen Saint John as our spiritual home,” said Francis Kendrick, brand manager for the Mooseheads, “so now it’s great that we can finally make it our real home, our physical home.”
Kendrick has been key in leading the charge to make the switch, petitioning the league and bringing multiple legal challenges as well as mobilizing fans, players and employees in a concerted grass-roots movement. “We really couldn’t have done it without the fans,” Kendrick said, “whether they were Moosehead Lager drinkers, Pale Ale drinkers, or even James Ready — they were behind us every step of the way.”
When it was founded in 1994, the Mooseheads franchise was the third team to be added to the newly formed Maritimes division of the Quebec Major Junior Minor Bantam Hockey League. Founder Arnold MacKay, then a vice-president at Moosehead Breweries, said that he originally suggested Halifax as a joke and it just went from there. “I never expected them to seriously consider Halifax,” says MacKay, taking a sip from his Moosehead Radler, “but things just went and got out of hand. But luckily we’ve finally managed to correct it and get them back where they belong.”
Saint John Mayor Mel Norton was also enthused at the news of the long-anticipated move. “This hockey team really deserves to be here in this city,” said the mayor, “so this is a major coup for us. I can’t wait to get season tickets for everyone in the office. Heck, I just sent Jimmy down to the liquor store to pick us up a two-four to celebrate.”
The existing Saint John hockey franchise, the Sea Dogs, will move to St. John’s, NL, and a new hockey team will be formed for the Halifax market. Although a name for Halifax’s new franchise has not yet been selected, it seems likely that the choice will be between the A. Keith’s or the Propellerheads.
Saint John’s victory over Halifax puts the Port City in the lead at 1 and 0.