Bulldogs suffer heart-breaking loss in potential final game in Hamilton


Published April 11, 2023 at 11:24 am

ohl ontario hockley league hamilton bulldogs brantford barrie colts firstontario centre
You can start calling them the Brantford Bulldogs after the team was eliminated at home in heart-breaking fashion from the OHL playoffs.

In what may have been the club’s final game in Hamilton, the Bulldogs gave up the season-ending goal with just 10 seconds left to lose 5-4 to the Barrie Colts in game six of their Ontario Hockey League first-round matchup.

The Bulldogs dropped the series 4-2, with the clincher coming in front of a disappointed (and disappointing) crowd of 3,550 at FirstOntario Centre, which is a tad less than the club’s season average. This means you can start calling them the Brantford Bulldogs. In fact, the team’s Wikipedia page flipped from Hamilton to Brantford moments after Ethan Cardwell’s third goal of game six sunk the Bulldogs.

In February, Brantford city council voted 11-0 in favour of the three-year agreement that will allow the ‘Dogs to settle in that city’s Civic Centre until at least 2026 after being bumped out of Hamilton by arena renovations. Both the Brantford Bulldogs and the municipality will pour about $7.5 million into upgrades and renovations to the 56-year-old civic centre. It has an option for a three-year renewal if the Brantford Bulldogs, and president and principal investor Michael Andlauer, find playing out of a smaller community to their liking.

“We are so thankful for the enthusiastic and immediate response from (Brantford) Mayor (Kevin) Davis, Brantford council and city staff,” Bulldogs governor Michael Andlauer stated after council’s vote. “Together, we have been able to make a home for the Bulldogs in a short and unexpected period of time.”

Andlauer learned last summer that the Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG) renovation of FirstOntario Centre would lead to its three sports tenants having to leave for two or more seasons. The other tenants were the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League and a team in the Canadian Elite Basketball League. The latter is now the Brampton Honey Badgers after having won the 2022 CEBL title while repping Hamilton.

The history of the Bulldogs brand in Hamilton is a storied one.

The Bulldogs began as an American Hockey League franchise, serving as the farm team for the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens — both respectively and simultaneously. The most notable of their 19 seasons (1996–2015) in Hamilton came in 2007 when rookie goaltender Carey Price led the Bulldogs to a Calder Cup championship.

In 2015, Andlauer announced that he had sold the  Bulldogs’ AHL franchise back to the Canadiens and that the team would move to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for the 2015-16 season as the St. John’s IceCaps. Concurrently, Andlauer announced that he had acquired major junior hockey club, the Belleville Bulls, and that they would move into the FirstOntario Centre for the 2015-16 season as the Hamilton Bulldogs.

The big question is, will the Bulldogs ever return to Hamilton? Honestly, no one really knows. A lot will depend on whether Andlauer finds Brantford as a more suitable home for his OHL club in the interim, and even still, will he want to return to Hamilton after feeling somewhat blindsided by the arena closure?

Brantford knows they’ll have a hometown major junior hockey club in the immediate future. Hamilton’s hockey future, though, will remain in limbo.

Written by Anthony Urciuoli (with files from Nathan Sagar and The Canadian Press)

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