It's been years now there have been rumours that the Montreal Canadiens were trying to move their American Hockey League affiliate out of Hamilton, though the usual destination mentioned was Laval, just north of Montreal. However Bell Place, the arena being built in Laval, isn't ready yet, or even close to ready, so it never quite made sense in the immediate future.
News broke on March 7th that the Bulldogs could be relocating as soon as this season, with the location being St. John's, Newfoundland after the IceCaps move to Winnipeg, Manitoba. However nothing was confirmed.
Five days later, the Bulldogs are indeed on the move according to Gary Lawless, heading to Newfoundland for the forseeable future. That's not all though, as the ownership of the Bulldogs have secured the Belleville Bulls.
OHL source says Belleville Bulls sold to Michael Andlauer, owner of AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. OHL meeting now to approve sale, relocation.— David Shoalts (@dshoalts) March 12, 2015
Andlauer will be moving the Bulls to Hamilton, and into Copps Coliseum, to replace the outgoing Bulldogs. The move is an interesting one from a Canadiens perspective, as one former team of P.K. Subban's takes the place of another former team of Subban's.
Based on some speculation from those in the know, the Belleville Bulls will become known as the Hamilton Bulldogs, while the former Hamilton Bulldogs will take over the mantle of the St. John's IceCaps, and the former IceCaps will become the Manitoba Moose.
Here's the official press release:
MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens announced today their decision to relocate their AHL affiliate team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, to St. John's, Newfoundland Labrador, where the team will be based for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons and will be known as the St. John's IceCaps.Further to that announcement, the Montreal Canadiens announced that it is acquiring the Hamilton Bulldogs AHL affiliation from owner Michael Andlauer, who has been the majority shareholder of the AHL franchise since 2004. The acquisition will take place at the conclusion of the Bulldogs' 2014-15 season.
The Hamilton Bulldogs franchise was first established in 1996 following the relocation of the Cape Breton Oilers. In the fall of 2002, a consortium of local Hamilton investors, including Michael Andlauer, purchased the Montreal Canadiens' AHL franchise which was operating in Quebec City (Citadelles) and relocated them to Hamilton. In its inaugural year both the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens used Hamilton as their farm club. A couple of years later, Andlauer bought out the consortium and became owner, governor and chairman of the Hamilton Bulldogs as the sole affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.
On the ice, the Club has reached the Calder Cup finals on three occasions, winning it all in 2007 with a 5-game win over the Hershey Bears. In 19 seasons, the Bulldogs played 1 489 games, recording 708 wins, 576 losses, 80 draws, 70 OTL and 55 shootout losses for a .533 winning percentage. Over that time, the Bulldogs developed several players many of whom currently play with the Montreal Canadiens; Carey Price, David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, Nathan Beaulieu and others.
"We are delighted in making St. John's our new home and look forward to playing in front of fans who have long been Canadiens supporters and who will now have an opportunity to watch our finest prospects as they hone their skills with our AHL affiliate team. In his 11 years as owner and part of the Hamilton Bulldogs management group, Michael Andlauer has greatly contributed to the success of the Montreal Canadiens, providing young players with an environment conducive to their development and progression all the while making the city of Hamilton a proud and successful hockey market", said Geoff Molson, owner, president and CEO of the Montreal Canadiens. Michael has a passion for our game and as owner of the Bulldogs he has been committed to the community, the fans and hockey in the city of Hamilton. He operated different programs to help kids, including the Dawgs Breakfast which allowed for 2,000 students at high-needs schools to start the day with a healthy and nutritious breakfast. Michael Andlauer has been a responsible and a generous owner but first and foremost he has been an exemplary citizen, added Molson. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all hockey fans in Hamilton for the tremendous support of the Bulldogs over the years. Each of you made our franchise better. Thank you Hamilton".