If a tree falls in the forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
If a junior A hockey club leaves St. Albert, but no one came out to watch them anyway, does anyone really notice?
Sadly, that’s the road we seem to be headed down with the St. Albert Steel. It’s all but certain that the Steel will not renew their current deal with the City of St. Albert and Servus Credit Union Place prior to the Feb. 28 deadline, after which we may be headed for contentious negotiations before the real drop-dead date of Aug. 31 comes up.
Unfortunately, though, if the Steel decide to pack up and head for greener pastures, it seems as though it will be with little fanfare. For whatever reason, the ownership of the Steel have done little to endear the team to the community, and thus the threat of losing them hasn’t evoked nearly as emotional response as when the Saints moved to Spruce Grove in 2004.
The product put out on the ice may have a lot to do with that, though. In five years, the Steel have never finished above fifth in the seven-team Alberta Junior Hockey League North Division, and never once won a playoff series. This year marked a low point for the franchise, with the selling off of key players at the beginning of the year contributing to just nine wins in 60 games.
If the Steel skip town, it would be a shame — not only to see the hard work of those who truly wanted this team to succeed wasted, but also because we may not get another shot. If we’ve let two teams slip out of our grasp, why would the AJHL ever trust us a third time around?
The catch-22, though, is that Servus Place needs a junior A club to be viable. Without it, the facility won’t see the same kind of revenue, pushing it further into the red. And the club keeps St. Albert’s name out there in the provincial media landscape.
St. Albert loves hockey, and Servus Place needs hockey. Let’s hope there is a solution out there — even if it takes a new ownership group to find it — to keep what we love and what we need here in our city.
— GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader