ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers cease operations

      The Growlers won the 2019 Kelly Cup as ECHL champions.

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      As first reported by Newfoundland-based outlet VCOM, the Newfoundland Growlers have ceased operations as of Tuesday due to bankruptcy.

      The news was confirmed by Dean MacDonald, chair of Deacon Sports and Entertainment – the parent company of the squad.

      The Trois Rivières Lions, who were also owned by Deacon, will remain active. The group was working to find a new owner for the Growlers, but according to MacDonald, an offer was declined.

      “We are saddened to lose ECHL hockey in the Newfoundland market,” ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin said in a statement. “We’d like to thank the Growlers fans and partners for their support of the team throughout their existence, and are hopeful that hockey can return to the region for their dedicated and passionate fanbase.”

      According to the ECHL, all players on ECHL deals will become unrestricted free agents. Teams are free to sign up to two players from the team for the remainder of the season but will become UFAs at the end of 2023-24. Players on NHL or AHL deals who were on Newfoundland’s roster after March 20 is ineligible to play for the remainder of the ECHL campaign, but can be called up to play in either of those two leagues.

      The Growlers are now the fourth professional hockey team to leave St. John’s. Toronto originally had their AHL team, the St. John’s Maple Leafs, located there from 1991-2005. The Manitoba Moose would go on to relocate to St. John’s, becoming the IceCaps, seving as Winnipeg’s premier farm team from 2011-15. The Montreal Canadiens would take over from 2015-17 before relocating the franchise to Laval. From 2005-08, St. John’s had a QMJHL team known as the Fog Devils before it was relocated to Montreal in 2008.

      The Growlers became an immediate threat in the ECHL, winning the Kelly Cup in its first year in existence in 2018-19. The team won two division titles, most recently in 2022-23. The team was coached by former NHLer Matt Cooke, with notable alumni including current Maple Leafs players Bobby McMann and Timothy Liljegren.

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