“We have zero plans for anything like that at all,” said Paul Roper, media relations manager for the OHL franchise.
Long rumored to be making the move to Hamilton, speculation as to the Otters' place in the city was kicked up again by a letter sent to Hamilton city council on Oct. 26 by Global Spectrum's chief operation's officer John Page.
In the letter, Page asked council to give the organization time to consider plans for Copps Coliseum involving the AHL's Bulldogs and a second “mystery” team — long rumored to be the Otters.
Global Spectrum is to take over management of Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place from HECFI sometime in the spring.
“Over the course of the last few days we have received interest from another hockey organization to use the Coliseum as their home venue,” Page said. “We have had and will continue to have lease discussions with the Hamilton Bulldogs on renewing their lease, but have not agreed on final lease terms to date.”
Page ended the letter asking matters to be kept private because of the “sensitive nature of existing contractual relationships,” but council voted to release the letter publicly and refer the issue to the HECFI subcommittee.
When reached by phone, Global Spectrum Spokesperson Ike Richman said the company's goal is “to have hockey at Copps.”
When asked if that meant an AHL team or an OHL team, he would only say again, "Our goal is to have hockey at Copps."
Roper said the Otters have just signed a two-year lease extension with the Erie County Convention Centre Authority, so rumors of the move are unfounded. Breaking that lease would no doubt lead to a hefty penalty.
The letter raises some questions about the Bulldogs' future in Hamilton. Rumors have circled that the team could end up moving to Laval, Quebec.
Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer says though he wants to keep the team in Hamilton, he is frustrated by this whole process.
"My desire was to keep hockey in Hamilton despite all the rumors," he said.
Andlauer says he is looking for a four- to five-year lease for the team at Copps, but there is no way to make things work with a second team in the area.
"You're basically cannibalizing the market," he said. "It's not fair to have both an AHL and an OHL franchise at a similar price point."
"There comes a point where we have to make proper developmental choices for facilities of the Montreal Canadiens," he said.
"We can't just go out on a limb in June and not have a building."