Newspaper article The Canadian Press

IceCaps Are One Hot Ticket as AHL Hockey Soothes NHL Blues on the Rock

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

IceCaps Are One Hot Ticket as AHL Hockey Soothes NHL Blues on the Rock

Article excerpt

No NHL? No problem. St. John's IceCaps rock

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Hockey night in St. John's, N.L., is a sold-out party that takes the edge off the growing threat that this year's NHL season may be shortened or nixed.

The American Hockey League IceCaps -- farm team for the Winnipeg Jets and formerly the Manitoba Moose -- moved to the Rock last fall.

The celebrated squad quickly made its mark as a leading contender in the league's Eastern Conference as players like goalie Eddie Pasquale, captain Jason Jaffray and right-winger Spencer Machecek became household names.

Fans had been starved for this calibre of pro hockey since the St. John's Maple Leafs left in 2005. They ate it up as their IceCaps made a thrilling playoff drive to the final four before flaming out last May against the Norfolk Admirals.

Win or lose, a wildly loyal fan base had solidified and only appears to be growing as a protracted NHL lockout over revenue sharing seems likely.

The Mile One Centre's 6,287-seat capacity for IceCaps games is regularly sold out, and support for the popular 50-50 draw is a testament to Newfoundland's famed generosity. The biggest jackpot last year was about $23,500 for the winner while local charities got a share of the other half, said co-ordinator Murray Chaplin, a longtime local hockey fan who helps sell tickets for the draw.

Chaplin compared it to a Toronto Maple Leafs game he went to last winter where the 50-50 take was $9,500 in winnings for a crowd of about 19,000 people.

"The fans are just terrific," he said of IceCaps supporters. "They are very knowledgeable. They know the game, they know what they expect from the players.

"Last year we generated with the 50-50 gross sales of $1.3 million of which half went to the winners and the remainder to the various charities. It's a win-win situation."

Team captain Jason Jaffray recently returned to the lineup after recovering from a hit last March that ended his season and led to spinal fusion.

"I've had a lot of support around the city," he said. "A lot of fans have said they were excited to have me back. In the off-season, when I was looking to re-sign, I mean, this was obviously my number one choice and the fans and management were a very good reason why. …

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