The other day we saw Vin Scully waving goodbye to Dodger fans after 67 years in the Dodger broadcast booth.
Today we read of the transfer Ottawa Senators’ top minor league team move to Belleville, Ontario. The Baby Senators and their move are an example of the state of the game today.
Just as Vin Scully became synonymous with Los Angeles, one must remember that he was voice of the Dodgers in Brooklyn as well. Similarly, the move of the A.H.L. Senators to Belleville to many is a bittersweet.
On the one hand, the move of the Senators to Belleville is a heart-warming new chapter to make Belleville whole again. A city of 50,000 (200,000 in the metro area) located along the 401 corridor between Toronto and Montreal, Belleville is a long time hockey hotbed. One need go no further than the Hull family – Bobby, Dennis and Brett. There are others who made their hometown proud – Eddie Westfall, Marc Crawford, Andrew Raycroft and Andrew Shaw just to name a few.
For years Belleville’s Yardman Arena (previously called the Quinte Sports Centre) was home to the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League. But the Bulls were sold and moved to Hamilton, replacing the Bulldogs who themselves had been moved to St. John’s Newfoundland to become the most recent edition of the Ice Dogs (St. John’s is now looking for a new team of their own as the team now in St. John’s is being moved to a new arena Laval, Quebec to be located nearby their parent team, the Montreal Canadiens). Hockey history in Belleville goes back along way – Belleville was also previously home to two senior hockey teams, the Belleville Macs and the Belleville McFarlands. The McFarlands won the Allan Cup in 1958, and the World Championship in 1959. Belleville also has some other teams, such as the Belleville Bearcats and the Belleville Jr. Bulls.
Needless to say, the locals are happy about the arrival of the new Belleville Senators of the American Hockey League. So too are their new owners, the Ottawa Senators, as the Belleville is only km from Ottawa – making a more convenient trip for players and management shuttling between the A.H.L. team and the parent club.
At the same time, the move is not good news to Binghamton, where the team has been known as the Binghampton Senators since 2002.
The arrival of the B-Sens marked the return of the AHL to the area after a five-year absence. The area had previously been represented by the Binghamton Dusters (1977–1980), the Binghamton Whalers (1980–1990), and the Binghamton Rangers (1990–1997), all of the AHL. While no AHL team played in Binghamton between 1997 and 2002, the market was served by the B.C. Icemen of the United Hockey League.
The Binghamton Senators enjoyed a successful 2002–03, freshman season, going 43–26–9 with 100 points. Over the years they have captured three division championships,one conference title and in 2010-2011 they won the AHL Calder Cup. Players passing through Binghamton on the way to the NHL have included the likes of Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Anton Volchenkov, Chris Neil, Andrew, Hammond and Mark Stone. Their coaches have included Luke Richardson and Kurt Kelinendorst. They have built rivalries with other nearby AHL teams such as the Syracuse Crunch, (located an hour north), the Rochester Americans, the Albany Devils, the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins (located an hour south), and the Hershey Bears (located about three hours south). They have become an important part of the community in their home, the Floyd L Maines Veterans Memorial Arena (formerly the Broome County Areana). They matter.
But with the announcement of relocation to Belleville, there is uncertainty in Binghamton. In a local press release there was hope expressed about the future. Supposedly, the NHL Senators and AHL are intent upon finding a replacement, but it’s not their money. If one takes folks at their word, there will quickly be a new chapter. Perhaps not surprising in the dizzying nature of the business of hockey these days.
In the meantime, we find ourselves rooting with the fans of Binghamton for their hometown Binghamton Senators.