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Vancouver Giants owners in talks to relocate team to Langley Township

Members of the Vancouver Giants celebrate their victory in the Memorial Cup on May 27, 2007. Owners of the Giants are in talks to relocate the team to the Township of Langley.

ANDY CLARK/REUTERS

Vancouver's last hockey team to win a major championship might be relocating to a newer, smaller arena in the suburbs.

The Vancouver Giants hosted and won Canadian Hockey League's Memorial Cup in 2007 at East Vancouver's Pacific Coliseum, but a decline in performance and a tough market has seen the major junior hockey team's official attendance dwindle from a high of almost 9,000 patrons per game that year to just 5,000 this season, according to hockeydb.com, an online database that tracks this data.

Now, the team's consortium of local owners, made up of crooner Michael Bublé, his manager Bruce Allen, White Spot restaurant chain owner Ron Toigo and others, is in talks with the Township of Langley to move into the community's 5,000-seat arena after the Giants' current five-year lease ends this summer at the Pacific National Exhibition fairgrounds, which was once the home of the Vancouver Canucks.

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Dale Saip, vice-president of business development with the Giants, said Friday that any talk of negotiations is speculative at this point.

"We've certainly had some conversations, but nothing [is] confirmed," he said. "We're just looking at different business models for what works with junior hockey.

"We've made the habit of doing that on a regular basis over the years, just to see what works best for what we need to get done."

Long-time Councillor Bob Long said it would be terrific if the team moved to the Township of Langley, but if it happens, he hopes current tenants the Vancouver Stealth, a professional lacrosse team, and the Langley Rivermen, another lower-level junior-hockey team do not get kicked out of the Langley Events Centre.

"We don't have empty ice time there that we need to fill," he said. "From what I hear and see, we have a facility that's attracting people, so we would take [the Giants] if it worked well with us."

Still, he said he is wary of any deal that forces the municipal government to pay the team for any unfilled seats. In nearby Abbotsford, the city recently lost more than $12-million building a new arena and subsidizing the losses of the farm team for the NHL's Calgary Flames. In 2014, Abbotsford paid $5.5-million to nix the remaining six years of a decade-long agreement with the team.

Meanwhile, Laura Ballance, spokeswoman for the PNE, said the Vancouver Giants have been an important part of programming at the city-owned fairgrounds, but filling the lower bowl of the Coliseum, which can seat over 17,000 people, has been a challenge for the team.

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If the team does leave, the PNE won't suffer any net financial loss, she said.

"If they were to move, we would have more flexibility to program large-scale events such as concerts, trade shows and one-off professional sporting events," Ms. Ballance said.

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About the Author
News reporter

Mike Hager is a general assignment reporter at the newspaper’s B.C. bureau. He grew up in Vancouver and graduated from the University of Western Ontario’s Huron College and Langara College. Before joining The Globe and Mail, he spent three years working for The Vancouver Sun. More

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