It appears Mile One Centre won’t be completely empty in 2017-18.
The Telegram has learned St. John’s Sports and Entertainment has reached a tentative deal in principle with a group looking to bring a professional basketball franchise to St. John’s next season.
The league is the National Basketball League of Canada, and the ownership group is one headed up by Glace Bay, N.S., native Irwin Simon, the CEO and president of Hain Celestial, a New York-based company specializing in health food and personal care items.
The frontman for the group, and the person behind the negotiations is Toronto promoter John Graham, who is familiar with St. John’s, having done business in the city over the years with sports exhibitions.
The NBL operated with 10 teams last season — five each in Ontario and the Maritimes.
Sudbury, Ont. is also joining the league as an expansion franchise, but won’t start play until the fall of 2018.
It’s believed lawyers on both sides — the ownership group and St. John’s Sports and Entertainment — will draft and sign off on documents before making things official.
It’s not yet known if there is an exclusivity clause in the agreement which will give the Simon group first negotiating rights for a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise, or perhaps an ECHL pro team, should one become available for 2018-19.
The basketball and hockey teams, it’s believed, would operate in concert with each other.