New junior team unveils uniform, opts for simple name - Junior de MontrealNHL.com @NHLdotcom
MONTREAL - The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team that will take up residence in Montreal next season will have the simplest of names - Junior de Montreal.
The name, likely to be referred to as Montreal Juniors in English, was unveiled at a news conference Monday, when the team's old-style burgundy and white uniforms were also put on display.
The St. John's Fog Devils, recently purchased by Montreal businessman Farrel Miller, is to move to Montreal for the 2008-'09 season.
"It's speaks to history and it's hard to find another name that does that," said Miller, who had the entire Fog Devils team on hand for the unveiling. "This is the No. 1 hockey city in the world.
"You don't need to be called the Lions or the Birds. We did a lot of research and most people wanted this name."
The jersey has no cartoon animals or lightning bolts like many modern hockey sweaters. It has Montreal written across the front with a puck serving as the French accent over the E.
Miller said the team wanted a classic look to its uniform and a clear team colour.
In fact, it looks a lot like the jersey of the defunct Montreal Maroons - minus the big M in front. The Maroons were an NHL club and two-time Stanley Cup champion that folded in 1938 during the Great Depression.
After the demise in 1972 of the Montreal Junior Canadiens, a farm team of the NHL club, there were teams called the Junior de Montreal and the Junior de Verdun. Montreal's last major junior squad, the Rocket, left for Prince Edward Island five years ago.
The new team will play at the Verdun Auditorium, a short hop from downtown Montreal. The 4,200-seat rink, built in the 1930s, is to undergo major renovations beginning in May.
Without giving a number, Miller said season tickets have sold briskly since they went on sale over the weekend and he expects the team to sell out. Plans are afoot either to expand the Auditorium or build a new rink, including corporate boxes, with up to 10,000 seats.
Miller paid $3.1 million for the Fog Devils, who had attendance trouble in St. John's since joining the QMJHL as an expansion team in 2005.
Unlike the Rocket, an expansion team that fizzled playing on an international-size ice surface at the Maurice Richard Arena, Miller feels the Juniors will be a success.
The QMJHL has been boosted in recent years by exposure on national sport television networks and the success of the Quebec Remparts, part-owned and coached by colourful former goaltending great Patrick Roy. Plus, they are bringing in an established team that should be competitive from the start.
"It's a no-brainer," Miller said. "All across Canada, the stature of junior hockey has risen tremendously.
"I think it will work because it's a very exciting product and not everybody can afford to pay $100 to go to the Bell Centre (to see the Canadiens). People can see great hockey for $15. And twice a year junior hockey gets great promotion with the world juniors and the Memorial Cup. People see this on these TV networks and sports radios that didn't exist 15 years ago. It's a whole new world of opportunity for junior hockey."
The QMJHL likes it because it brings the league back to its biggest market. Currently, the closest team to Montreal is Drummondville, a one-hour drive away.
It will be a dramatic change for the players, a handful of whom are Newfoundland natives.
"At first I was a bit disappointed leaving home, but moving to Montreal where there's a lot of hype about the team, I'm very excited right now," said team scoring leader Luke Adam, 17. "We're anxious to get going next year but right now we're focusing on what we're going to do for the St. John's Fog Devils.
"We'll make that transition this summer."
Veteran Wes Welcher, who is 20 and will graduate from junior hockey before the move, is disappointed at the demise of junior hockey in his home province. But he says the club couldn't have ended up in a better spot.
"I think it came down to fan support," said Welcher. "We've never been on top of the standings, but we've always had a decent team and we've always been in playoffs.
"Last year we played Cape Breton in the first round, who had the best team I've seen in the Q, and we couldn't get people out to watch. When they don't come out, it's hard to keep a team in the city. It's too bad."
League executive Pierre Leduc said the QMJHL has not ruled out a return to Newfoundland in the future.
"I don't think the league is happy to see a team leave, wherever they are, because they can't meet their budget or attendance goals," he said. "But we're happy with the return to Montreal.
"It's good for the fans and the media."