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Posted 2015 October 10
When I wrote the original review for the St. John's IceCaps, I spent a lot of time talking about how happy I was that a team was resurrecting the old IceCaps name, how impressed I was that they had actually made a good logo for a name I had previously thought impossible to make a good logo for, and so forth. Basically, I had nothing but good things to say.
I kept my mouth shut about one thing, which is that I didn't expect the team to last very long.
My skepticism, I think, was reasonable. At roughly 100,000 people, St. John's isn't the smallest city in the AHL but it's far from the largest. And it was (and still is) quite isolated from the rest of the league: its closest opponent, the Portland Pirates, were nearly 1500 km (900 miles) away. There was an entire division where every team was at least 3900 km (2400 miles) away. To put this in perspective, London is closer to St. John's than any of the teams in that division. So even if attendance was decent — and I didn't have high hopes for that — I figured the high travel costs would kill them in fairly short order.
I was wrong. First of all, their attendance has been much better than just decent: In the first year attendance was 6297, just barely missing the top ten in all of minor league hockey (the ECHL Ontario Reign were tenth with just twelve more fans per game). The lowest average they've had in St. John's has been 5875, good for 13th in all of minor league hockey. And obviously, they lasted four years in St. John's. If that doesn't sound like much, let me point out thirteen other teams debuted either at the same time as or after the IceCaps did, and six of those thirteen have already folded.
Still, when I heard about the massive realignment that saw the AHL pick up five teams in California, I was convinced the team was doomed. Between the distance involved (Minsk, the capital of Belarus, is closer to St. John's than San Diego is) and the fact that most NHL teams were putting their affiliates closer to themselves, I figured it was a given that the Winnipeg Jets (owners and operators of the IceCaps) were going to pull out of St. John's, and that would be it for the St. John's IceCaps.
I was right about Winnipeg pulling out: the Jets' affiliate is now the Manitoba Moose, who play in the same arena as the Jets (this is clearly overdoing it in the "keep your affiliate nearby" department, but I'll talk about that when I review the Moose). But obviously, if I'm writing a review for the Saint John's IceCaps then there must be a team in St. John's called the IceCaps. And there is. The Montreal Canadiens moved their affiliate to St. John's, and that affiliate has taken the IceCaps name.
The new IceCaps are using the same logo as the old IceCaps, but with a new color scheme. This isn't surprising, since the old color scheme was heavily influenced by the Jets' color scheme. Unfortunately the logo suffers as a result. For a team called the IceCaps, a color scheme of dark blue, light blue, grey, and white made perfect sense. Red, blue, grey, and white doesn't work nearly as well. That being said, it's still a very good logo for the reasons I mentioned when the team first debuted: the fact that we actually see the mountain with an actual ice cap on it, and the way they have subtly worked the shape of Newfoundland and Labrador into the icecap. It's not as good as it used to be, but it's still one of the better logos out there.
So here's to being proven wrong. The St. John's IceCaps have already lasted longer than I predicted, and at this point it seems reasonable to say they're at least as safe as any other minor league hockey team. The city survived a major upheaval in the landscape of minor league hockey not merely by holding onto its team but by accomplishing the more difficult feat of attracting one. I think the fans of St. John's will be fine for years to come. And hopefully I didn't just jinx them by writing that.
Final Score: 15 points.
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