The pursuit of an ECHL team in Trois-Rivières has been known for months now, and it has finally come to a point where the city and the ownership of a new franchise have signed a preliminary agreement.
There are still some final details to buckle down however, as per Le Nouvelliste reporter Steve Turcotte.
En ce qui concerne la ECHL à Trois-Rivières, il faut quand même noter qu'il reste des ficelles à attacher. 90 jours sont prévus pour en arriver à une entente finale. Reste que l'annonce d'aujourd'hui est très prometteuse.— steve turcotte (@steveturcotte) July 9, 2020
That said, the deal is secure enough that both parties felt comfortable enough to hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon to make a formal announcement of a deal in principle. Former Laval Rocket president Mark Weightman and former Canadiens player Marc-Andre Bergeron were on hand for the conference.
Jean Lamarche, mayor of Trois-Rivières was first to the podium, noting that the sides “were engaged, the invitations have been sent out, and we have a pretty good idea who the band will be,” alluding to the fact there are still some details left to iron out.
“This team will be the only ECHL team in the Quebec market,” continued Lamarche. “It will give Quebec prospects a second opportunity to prove themselves. It’s a good product, it will be a local product. I am one of the biggest fans of the ECHL, and I am also one of the biggest fans of Trois-Rivières”.
Mayor Lamarche next introduced Bergeron, who was there to represent the ownership group, Deacon Sports & Entertainment. Mayor Lamarche indicated that his first conversations with Bergeron began about 20 months ago, as Bergeron was charged with finding a tenant for the new arena in the city.
“The next time the weather is this hot and we are talking hockey here, it’s hopefully to talk about a parade,” said Bergeron. “Despite some obstacles, it’s the transparent and honest approach that helped us get to where we are. It’s with this attitude that we will work with the city to complete the job. The job is to be ready for puck drop in the fall of 2021.”
Habs Eyes on the Prize reached out to majority owner Dean MacDonald, who was not present for the press conference, for comment ahead of the formal announcement.
“We are delighted to come to an agreement with the city of Trois-Rivières,” said Mr. MacDonald. “The discussions have been very constructive and respectful of the needs of all parties involved. We appreciate the efforts of the Mayor, Council and city staff to advance this relationship on behalf of the citizens of their beautiful city.”
The deal establishes a framework for a five-year lease agreement of the new Colisée of Trois-Rivières, with two five-year options, up to a maximum of 15 years. Co-habitation of the arena remains a possibility according to Mayor Lamarche.
No mention was made of the Montreal Canadiens, but an affiliation is expected once everything is said and done and the expansion franchise is finalized by the league.