This year has been one of the most successful years for the City of Hamilton in its sports. In Soccer, Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League won their third championship. The Hamilton Honey Badgers of the Canadian Elite Basketball had won the city’s first championship in basketball, and the Hamilton Bulldogs had won the OHL championship for the second time in their short stay in the OHL.
But now the Bulldogs, along with the Honey Badgers, have learned that for the next two seasons they will be unable to play at the FirstOntario Centre. The biggest indoor sports centre in the city will be going through needed renovations for 20 months. It will affect the team’s hockey, basketball, and indoor lacrosse team of the Toronto Rock.
It was reported that around the playoffs last year conversations had started to happen. Although every tendency in the arena was notified late in October and now has left every team feeling deserted. For the Bulldogs, they have to submit some sort of plan to the OHL to confirm schedules for next year. Now, they are struggling to find a place and there are no suitable areas in Hamilton or even in close cities like Burlington to host the OHL champions this year on.
There has been no official statement from the OHL or any of the three teams that are current tenants of the arena but their owners have spoken to local media such as The Hamilton Spectator. There have been accusations that there has been zero communication between the team owners and the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) and the city. They were told that the arena would be renovated in pieces so even if the renovations would sometimes be in the way of their season, they would still be able to play there.
The Bulldogs may look at smaller arenas in the area. Hamilton also has the Dave Andreychuk Mountain Arena & Skating Centre which is located in Southern Hamilton. It’s home to the Hamilton Steelhawks in the men’s senior AAA Allen Cup League and the Hamilton Kitty B’s of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League. Burlington also has the Central Recreation Centre which hosts the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
But what they may have and what the OHL will accept will be another question. It isn’t uncommon for teams to use smaller venues for a few years while they sort out their main building. In the NHL the Arizona Coyotes have moved into a smaller arena while they await where their main arena will be located in the desert city.
HUPEG has said that they will help the teams find new locations to play for the new few seasons and that communication between the teams and them will be much better in the future.
The big issue for Hamilton and its sports scene is that it was finally opening up to many more opportunities in different sports like basketball and box lacrosse. In the past, only the Hamilton Bulldogs were the only tenants in the area with minor teams coming and going in a few years but it was always them in the American Hockey League. In 2015 Belleville and Hamilton switched positions with Belleville ditching the Bulls for the Senators and becoming the Ottawa Senators affiliate. While Hamilton Bulldogs were the Montreal Affiliates and when they left the AHL, the new OHL team named themselves after the old team with the same logo but different colours.
The Bulldogs finally got some company when the Hamilton Honey Badgers joined in 2019 and the Toronto Rock moved from Toronto to the city in 2021. It wasn’t long ago that the Bulldogs were at the height of excitement and with a stacked team, they were playing in their best seasons yet. Now, they are at a crossroads, and need to find a new home.
main image credits: