Minden’s newly-refurbished arena is now home to a Junior A Hockey Club.
The former Whitby Fury are on the move and will begin their training camp as the Haliburton County Huskies in mid-August, if allowed by the Province of Ontario during the pandemic.
Minden Hills director of community services, Craig Belfry, shared details during the April 29 council meeting when he brought a tenancy agreement before council.
He and staff have been negotiating for months to bring the club to Minden. It’s owned by local businessman Paul Wilson.
Belfry said it was an “exciting development” for the township.
He said the team sought formal approval from the Ontario Junior Hockey League with the relocation approved Feb. 15.
Huskies head coach and general manager, Ryan Ramsay, told The Highlander, “We’re ecstatic to say the least.”
Junior A hockey club moving from Whitby
He said the group that bought the Whitby Fury a couple of years ago knew they were going to have to relocate as they weren’t getting the fans and there was no atmosphere in the arena.
Then, last year, they heard about Minden’s new rink nearing completion. He said he and Wilson came to tour the rink and facilities.
“A great centre up in cottage country. From an operations point of view, it was a no-brainer for us. With the County being a hockey town and a sports town, we think it could really be something special for fans, the community and our players.”
Belfry said the benefits of having the team move to the facility are “enormous.”
“It fills gaps in our scheduling of ice time. It brings a new element to the community which will help foster and develop the minor hockey and minor skating programs in the community. It provides an entertainment value to the community as a whole of a new product in the facility.”
He said the agreement is for seven years, with review at the three-year mark. Belfry said the township is offering a reduced rate for ice time to help the team establish a foothold in the community. It will rise incrementally.
He noted the Huskies will be spending about $100,000 to renovate the area known as the Scout Hall for use specifically by the team. This includes the creation of a dressing room, lounge, training rooms, office and showers.
In addition to renting ice time, the team will use other areas of the facility, including the viewing area and adjoining community hall and gym.
Further, the team will be running the canteen. “That’s a great deal for us, that we have somebody already agreeing to work with us to run that snack bar,” Belfry said.
The team would also like fans to be able to have an alcoholic beverage when watching the games and the township is open to an arrangement.
Belfry noted the Huskies will be responsible as they will require insurance, Smart Servers and security at games.
He tabled a report from Hockey Canada showing the overall impact “of how minor hockey, and hockey in general, generates revenue in small communities like ours and it’s a very positive report.” He said the Huskies are also committed to developing youth in the community.
“We felt very confident that we could accommodate this team and work with them over the next few years.”
Councillors ask questions
Coun. Jennifer Hughey asked questions to address some community concerns.
She said some organizations, such as figure skating and Girl Guides and Scouts, want to ensure they are not unduly impacted. She asked Belfry what he meant by filling gaps in the scheduling of ice time.
Belfry said he looked at the arena schedule prior to closure and there were a lot of gaps. He noted the Highland Storm use both Minden and Haliburton arenas. However, he said there were openings alternating Friday and Saturday nights. He said minor hockey traditionally finishes by 5 p.m. Saturday.
“You’re wide open on a Saturday night with nothing going on in the facility.”
He said the Huskies plan to play Friday and Saturdays. He said they are already in discussions with minor hockey and there will be a full user group meeting in about a month to examine scheduling. He said they will practice during the day when the arena is underutilized.
Hughey and Coun. Ron Nesbitt also expressed concerns about serving alcohol. Belfy reiterated the clause about volunteer security for events. He added if there are issues, the township has the right to ask the club to employ police.
Coun. Bob Carter and Coun. Pam Sayne also asked if the team could hold off on alcohol sales in the stands until the township sees how it goes. Meanwhile, the Haliburton County Huskies went live with their website May 5 at huskieshockey.ca.