OHL’s Steelheads hope to find new life in Brampton

Feb 8, 2024 | Sports

The Mississauga Steelheads announced the team will relocate to Brampton for the 2024-25 OHL season.

The move will end a 26-year run of junior hockey in Mississauga, dating back to when they were known as the IceDogs.

The club released a statement on X on Jan. 31 to announce the move, which they said came after much consideration and discussion.

The team said part of this consideration was taking advantage of increasing interest in hockey in Brampton.

“This move marks a strategic decision aimed at enhancing our team’s growth and expanding our fan base,” the team said.

They said Brampton’s diverse community and its growing hockey fan base present an exciting new opportunity for the Steelheads.

The Steelheads, who currently play in Mississauga’s Paramount Fine Foods Centre, will move to the CAA Centre in Brampton, just 6.6 kilometres north.

The move comes as the Steelheads have struggled to draw in fans in recent years.

Their average attendance this season is 2,256 people per game, ranking lowest in the league, according to Hockey DB.

Elliott Kerr, one of the team’s co-owners since 2012, said this was the primary reason for the relocation among other factors.

He said other factors included the financial challenges the club faced coming out of the pandemic, the lack of hospitality options near the rink, and the Raptors 905 drawing their audience away.

“With all of those variables, we just had to do something,” Kerr said.

He said the new facility will come with a large and fully operational restaurant which should attract fans before and after games.

Kerr said staying in the area was a priority for both players and staff and a plus for brand-building and marketing initiatives.

He said this would help to retain season ticket holders and cut down any unnecessary disruptions for players dealing with billet families and their education.

Jordan Davidson, a Steelheads fan for the past eight years, said he was not surprised about the move.

“Honestly, it’s always been on my mind. The team has never been great at drawing fans and every time the building lease was up, there were always rumours about the future of the team,” he said.

Davidson said he believed poor marketing played a huge role in the team leaving.

He said he found it rare to see any Steelheads advertising beyond the team’s arena or the sports complex next door.

“I feel that reminding people that there are future NHLers playing in their backyards for much less than the cheapest Leaf ticket could have made a difference,” Davidson said.

Despite his disappointment in having to travel farther to see his team, he said loyal fans should be lucky they haven’t moved too far.

Another Steelheads fan, Marvin Daw, had a different reaction.

“When I heard the news, I was in complete shock. I love the arena and the fans that come to the games are amazing,” he said.

But Daw said now that he’s had time to digest the news, he can see why the move is taking place.

This will be the second time the OHL has operated in Brampton, the first being with the Battalion from 1998 to 2013 when the team moved to North Bay.

The move comes as the Steelheads have assembled a young core that is looking to make some noise over the next couple of years.

They are currently the youngest team in the OHL with many 2024 and 2025 NHL draft eligible players on the roster.

Ownership hopes the move and all that comes with it will make the fan experience better than it’s been in years.