Keith McCullough has reaffirmed he and his partners can’t move forward on bringing an American Hockey League team to Thunder Bay until the city builds a new arena.
McCullough, a principal in Ice Edge Holdings, was in Thunder Bay this week to speak at a conference at Valhalla Inn and on Wednesday said the group won’t attempt to purchase an AHL franchise until that time.
“AHL franchises are for sale but the question is do you have a building to put the franchise in, and do you have a NHL partner that makes sense to vertically align yourself with,” McCullough said. “I think with population growth rising and the kind of economic development we’re going to see, it’s a perfect time to get that kind of hockey product in Thunder Bay. Next to pulling rocks out of the ground, the next big thing we manufacture in this city is hockey players.”
City council on Oct. 10 will receive a report on the location of a proposed event centre, estimated to cost between $80 million and $100 million.
The two most popular locations being considered are downtown Port Arthur and Innova Park.
McCullough said Thunder Bay is on the right track and praised how city manager Tim Commisso has handled the situation so far.
He said he’s quite confident Thunder Bay can support an AHL team and went on to say there’s enough excitement in the city to host training camps and other events to attract that kind of product to the North.
“If we could get the franchise aligned with Winnipeg or Minnesota or something nearby, now you have an even bigger opportunity and base perspective because now you can get those pro players in transition,” he said.
He and business partner Anthony LeBlanc had expressed interest buying the Phoenix Coyotes a few years ago, and were recently linked to Greg Jamison’s bid to buy the struggling team.
However McCullough said he’s not personally interested in Phoenix at the moment.