Guelph Hurricanes headed to Cambridge

GUELPH – After years of struggling with attendance, the Guelph Hurricanes are leaving town.

This week the junior B team received the Ontario Hockey Association’s blessing to relocate to Cambridge and fill the void left when the Winterhawks pulled out of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League prior to the 2017-18 season.

The Canes, who played their home games at the Sleeman Centre from the 2009-10 season on, were consistently at the bottom of the league in terms of attendance. While the facility has a capacity of 4,715 for hockey, the Canes averaged 122 per game during the 2017-18 season. That was 24th in the 26-team league, better than the 114 per game averaged by the Brampton Bombers and the 61 per game averaged by the Buffalo Regals who had two wins during the season. League best was 1,210 averaged by the Sarnia Legionnaires.

This season the Canes were ousted from the Midwestern Conference playoffs in the quarter-finals for the fifth consecutive time when the eventual league-champion Listowel Cyclones won 5-1 March 8 to complete a sweep of the series.

In a way, the franchise is returning home as it had started in the Central Junior C Hockey League as the Hespeler Shamrocks in the 1961-62 season. The Shamrocks twice won their league title and also the Ontario junior C title in 1964.

The Shamrocks moved up to junior B in 1970-71 after finishing as provincial junior C runners-up the previous season. They relocated to Guelph in the 1982-83 season and competed for three seasons as the Holody Platers before sitting out a year.

They were resurrected as the Guelph B’s for the 1986-87 season and have called Guelph home ever since. They were known as the B’s through the 1990-91 season and since then have been called the Guelph Holody Platers again (1991-96), Guelph Fire (1996-2000), Guelph Dominators (2000-09) and Guelph Hurricanes (2009-18).

After using the Victoria Road arena as their home base, they moved to the Sleeman Centre when they became the Canes.

The Dominators had an average attendance of 191 in 2008-09 and that improved to 260 the Canes averaged in 2009-10, their first season at the Sleeman Centre. That proved to be their highest-ever average attendance mark as it fell to 188 in 2010-11 and a league-worst 128 in 2011-12.

The team finished above the .500 winning percentage mark seven times during their 35 seasons in Guelph – 1982-83 (26-15-1), 2002-03 (25-19-4-2), 2005-06 (27-20-1-0), 2006-07 (24-21-2-1), 2010-11 (34-12-0-5), 2014-15 (28-17-0-4) and 2015-16 (26-14-3-7).

The Cambridge Canes are to play their home games at the Galt Memorial Gardens and they have a rookie camp scheduled for June 2-3 at the Gryphon Centre.

  • Guelph Sports Journal