You don’t want to be in a position as the one who puts the final nail in someone’s coffin. And that is where the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League find themselves in right now.
I was covering the 2002 OHL playoffs between the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors and the North Bay Centennials. A month earlier, it was announced that the Centennials were sold and were moving from North Bay to Saginaw, Michigan after the season. You can probably imagine the shock and sadness in the community after learning the fate of their only major sports team.
The series was perhaps just as emotional for the Majors. After securing first place in the Eastern Conference they faced the eighth seed in the first round. And it happened to be the Centennials. St. Mike’s was a powerful team at the time coached by detail-oriented Dave Cameron. They easily took out the Centennials in a four-game sweep. The final game happened to have taken place in North Bay. The job had to be done and the Majors moved on to the next round but I would bet they would like to have done it under different circumstances.
In 2012, the Brampton Battalion were in a similar position. The lease at their arena was about to expire and the owner had an agreement in place to move the team to North Bay at the end of the season. But I don’t think there was that sentimental attachment in Brampton like there was in North Bay 10 years earlier. Perhaps it was only fitting that the Sudbury Wolves, a team located about 100 kilometres west of North Bay, were the ones to pull the plug on the Battalion in Brampton when they eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs.
Which brings us to the Belleville Bulls who will be moving to Hamilton next season. The Bulls are in the playoffs and will take on the Colts in the first round. It is almost like having to fight your best friend in order to survive. All feelings aside, the Colts will do what they have to do to advance to the next round. As they say, it’s nothing personal, just business. I suppose if there is a moral component to this story is that someday you will be in a situation where you will have to determine one’s fate and, no matter how much you try to work things through, it will not end well.
There will be situations like the one in Brampton or Atlanta a year earlier when the Thrashers quietly left the city and moved to more greener (or whiter) pastures in Winnipeg. But for the most part, no likes to see a team move out to another town especially one that has been a stable in the community for decades. And you certainly don’t want to be the one who ends up with the finger on the trigger.