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After a decade as one of Canada's most successful American Hockey League franchises, the Saint John Flames have been extinguished. Civic and league officials gathered yesterday at the arena where the Flames had some of their greatest moments to announce the demise of the team that once was the pride of this gritty, industrial city. The Flames were the only pro hockey team in New Brunswick. "Some nights I cry," said Nick Georgoudis, president of the Flames club. "I've lost something I love. But life has to go on and there's nothing I can do." There was anger as well as tears. An emotional Elsie Wayne, MP for Saint John, stormed up to Mayor Shirley McAlary after the news conference and accused the city of not doing enough to keep the club. "We damn well should have done more to keep this team," Wayne said, pointing to subsidies provided by St. John's to help maintain its AHL franchise -- the last in Atlantic Canada. "This has hurt Saint John dramatically." McAlary looked stunned, but insisted the city didn't have the money and wasn't asked for help. In addition to St. John's, Winnipeg and Hamilton also have teams in the 28-club AHL. A franchise is planned for Toronto. League officials said the Flames, Calder Cup champions in 2001 and minor-league affiliate of the Calgary Flames, have been skating on thin, economic ice for the past five years. They said the small-market team could not survive the harsh economic realities of big time, professional hockey.

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