Deal reached, P.E.I. Rocket staying in Charlottetown

Jason Malloy
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The P.E.I. Rocket is in Charlottetown to stay.

A group of local businesspeople reached a tentative agreement with the Savard family Friday at 7 p.m.

“We worked around the clock until now to get the deal done,” Trent Birt told the media at the Charlottetown Civic Centre moments after a phone call with Serge Savard Sr. “Literally every second for the last 10 business days, every second, was just ‘where do we go and how do we find the financing to get this thing done.’”

Birt, the team’s vice-president of operations, has been working with other team officials to bring potential investors to the table since the Savard family received an offer to buy the team April 15 from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

The makeup of the new group was not released, but Birt said they have a passion for the game and showed their commitment to the city.

“They’re reputable and I think when the public meets these people they’re going to be very pleasantly surprised,” Birt said. “This is setting up our franchise for many very successful season to come.”

Charlottetown resident Josh Currie, who was the team’s captain this past season, said it was “great” news.

“When I heard they were up for sale, I wanted them to stay here and I was really hoping somebody locally would put an offer in,” he said. “It’s great to hear somebody has and it’s good for Island hockey and Island youth in general.”

Louick Marcotte completed his third season this year with the Rocket and can come back in the fall.

“P.E.I. is a nice place to play. The fans are great,” he said. “I would have missed this place if we would have moved. It’s nice to know we’re staying on P.E.I.”

The Rocket was created in 1999 when the league granted an expansion club to the Savards. They called the team the Montreal Rocket after Habs legend Maurice (the Rocket) Richard. The team moved to Charlottetown in 2003 and has recently suffered through a string of losing seasons marred by red ink.

Last week the Savard family announced there was an offer to buy the team for around $3.5 million, but wanted to give Islanders an opportunity to keep the team in town.

“The community owes a lot to the Savard family for . . . (bringing) the team here 10 years ago,” Birt said. Serge Savard Sr. “did everything in his power to keep it here. He could have sold it and left, but he wanted to keep it here.”

The Savards are not part of the new ownership group.

Grant Sonier was the spokesman for a group that presented the Savards with a letter of intent to buy the team Thursday.

“We’d like to congratulate this other group on their purchase of the P.E.I. Rocket,” Sonier said. “We’d also like to thank the Savard family and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for the manner in which they conducted themselves through this process.”

Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said he was confident the team would remain in the city.

"It is obvious that a lot of people have worked hard to make today's deal happen and I applaud the efforts and leadership of our business community and investors for ensuring that the team stays in the capital.”

The Rocket was set to become the Islanders before the last week’s announcement. Birt said what will happen now had not been discussed with the new group.

A formal announcement is expected in the coming days.

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • MaritimeHockey
    April 30, 2013 - 09:54

    The day Serge Savard is no longer associated with this team will be the day that positive changes will be able to happen for this organisation. The all Quebec coaching staff along with its usual 13-15 Quebec players does nothing for local fans. When the Jr A islanders had a roster filled with maritime talent they had no issue filling up UPEI's arena. I think the same will be able to be said about our island team when a new owner gives local coaches and players a look rather than reaching out to his buddies in Quebec for coaching, scouting etc. There's no question there's a place for some of the talented french players on the team but it's clear that what brings islanders to the rink is other islanders... And don't tell me there's a shortage of talent. The past two seasons the team has been led by local talent in Josh Curry and sackville native Ben Duffy. We've produced a number of NHL caliber players, and a world junior level coach it's time to start getting these people on the local squad.

    • gordie
      May 01, 2013 - 06:22

      Doh, last time I checked an island resident was coach, Gordie has earned the right to be an islander

    • reality check
      May 01, 2013 - 11:02

      Perhaps you should ask the parents of talented Island players like Gormley that were steered away from the Rocket at the draft by them telling the team not to draft their son. Same with Brent Andrews. A lot of players manipulate the system saying they're holding onto their NCAA option to every team except the one they really want to go to. Also the team has had local talent before and it didn't always work out. You take the best player available regardless of where he's from. Maybe with the new owners some parents might be more willing to have their sons play here. Also....yes...head coach is from New Brunswick, 1 assistant is from PEI....do your home work. Also the old Jr Islanders did not sell out all the time when they played at the old Forum (not UPEI rink)....read some old clippings and you'll see....again a little research does wonders.

  • Please
    April 29, 2013 - 11:06

    A note to we are Charlottetown, 90%of the Rocket fans are from outside Charlottetown, so lay off the crap.

    • If that's the case....
      April 29, 2013 - 19:09

      Why not move out of Charlottetown then?

  • We Are Charlottetown
    April 28, 2013 - 09:38

    Charlottetown businesses, Charlottetown owners, Charlottetown Civic Centre, Charlottetown fans. Please name our team the Charlottetown Islanders/Abbies/Rocket or whatevers.

    • johnny on the Spot
      April 29, 2013 - 19:36

      Narrow minded comments like this is what makes Sports in PEI a mess.......get over yourself and the thought that all life revolves around Charlottetown. With out the rest of the Islanders and communities PEI would not exist.

  • Rick Anstey
    April 28, 2013 - 08:52

    Congrats to the new owners! I wish them well in keeping this high level of hockey going on PEI. Having worked with the Senators and the Rocket, I know the support is there for the team. The owners need to have more control of the Civic Centre in order to support the team. All the best for the future!

  • don
    April 28, 2013 - 02:58

    CJ. they have no right to be called ISLANDERS as they DO NOT cover PEI only ch'town. plus this deal stinks.

  • taxpayer
    April 27, 2013 - 23:37

    Just remember.... this city is carrying over $100 million in debt it cannot afford and has an infrastructure deficit for CRITICAL items like water supply, water pipes, sewer systems, streets, sidewalks, fire stations, fire trucks, etc. that is probably approaching $500 million. Part of that $100 million debt is the civic centre construction in 1990. We do NOT. I repeat we do NOT have the money to build you a new rink. If you want a new rink, build it yourself or find some other suckers who will do it. Oh yeah, and the current civic centre should be run on a break-even basis, not a loss, so if that means jacking up your rent, so be it. You're a business. Put on your big boy pants and suck it up.

  • Need To Know
    April 27, 2013 - 23:25

    Names Names Names Names Please !

  • Msake the needed changes & you will succeed
    April 27, 2013 - 17:40

    Great news, now get down to work and change things up. Fix the sound system, changfe the pa announcer to someone more professional sounding , not screaming and yelling. new name and logo, new music, new attitude. lets go PEI ???

  • CJ
    April 27, 2013 - 17:40

    put on your big boy pants and get over it they are going to be called the islanders

  • Caps and Abbies
    April 27, 2013 - 15:46

    Congratulations Trent and new owners! You should call the team the Charlottetown Abbies and then eventually push to have a provincial rival to join them in the league. I would certainly pay to watch an old fashioned Caps and Abbies game! Don't discount the idea. It would work. Nothing beats a heated rivalry. Just imagine the crowds and sell outs in both arenas. The Caps vs Abbies? Wow! However, Roun Noranda or Val dor? Sorry, but those teams don't mean anything to this hockey fan. Think about it.

    • thinkaboutthis
      April 27, 2013 - 19:06

      This team almost went extinct due to lack of support. The thought of PEI trying to support two franchises doesn't make sense.

    • Islander Hockey Fan
      April 27, 2013 - 22:44

      I completely agree with the calling this team the Charlottetown Abbies. The local minor hockey teams are still the abbies and the junior team should be too. I would love to see the old fashioned abbies logo on a major junior team. I know there are fans from the whole province, but they would still come to the games despite the name if they are willing to make the drive in the first place. The target market is obviously from the Charlottetown area and a lot of the potential ticket buyers grew up playing for the abbies or watching the old Junior A Abbies......naming the team the Abbies would sell some major season tickets.

  • Norm
    April 27, 2013 - 13:52

    Get away from the Rocket/Islanders brand as far as possible and get a new name, logos and colors. Have as little association to the old team as possible

  • Chester W.
    April 27, 2013 - 13:32

    It's good that the Islanders (Rockets) are staying on P. E. I. .......... But it would be much better if they played their home games in Summerside, Summerside has a MUCH, MUCH better facility and is not as DRAB as the Civic centrte

  • ten year season ticket holder
    April 27, 2013 - 13:21

    Great job Trent Birt and company on keeping this team here. I believe a new name is a must, whether its PE Islanders or PEI JR Islanders or something completely different (if possible). This is a chance at a new fresh start correcting the wrongs that have been made in previous years with this franchise. Like someone said in another forum, when the Jets moved or (any other team) for the matter in the NHL they never kept the original name. Phoenix Jets probably wasn't even thought of. Also maybe have some pre season games in Summerside and Montague to gain more interest, like the NHL has done in previous season. Maybe also if its not too late to get the school kids involved in some sort of logo contest for the new jersey/logo if you decide to go with the rebranding idea

  • Gordie Cox
    April 27, 2013 - 13:18

    Congrats to Trent and his group for the very hard work to find a buyer for the Rocket!! Their never-say-die attitude will serve this team will for years to come!! Congrats!!!

  • Transplanted Islander
    April 27, 2013 - 13:13

    Congrats to Trent and the new owners for keeping " major " junior hockey on the Island. For those who comment on team name, previous owners, logo or the facility, I hope you're supportive hockey fans and not just whiners. The main focus is to get bodies in the seats. I can't believe we can't find enough " true " hockey fans to fill that rink for every game. I know people travel from up West or down East to attend the games and see great hockey. Come on people, support this new group with your attendance.

  • Keith Doyle
    April 27, 2013 - 12:41

    This is great news for PEI and all hockey fans. Always remember, owners...it's the fans who count...without them there is no team, no hockey. Treat them with respect and you'll get their support whether the team is winning and losing.

  • HMR
    April 27, 2013 - 11:58

    I agree fully with comments made by Ace Freely; in congratulating Trent on his effort in keeping the Rocket on PEI. I think that if the Rocket had left; there would not be another major junior hockey team play out of Charlottetown in my lifetime! I hope that the new owners can make some changes to the Civic Center; to make it more fan friendly to watch hockey games. I also agree with the comment to keep the Rocket name; but come up with a different logo. Again; very glad to see the team remain in Charlottetown!

  • don
    April 27, 2013 - 11:58

    LET'S GO ROCKET. how many championships have they won in comparison to the western capitals?

    • nitpicker
      April 27, 2013 - 13:39

      If you are talking national championships, I think its Rocket 0, Caps, 1. And your point being...?

  • TARANTAU
    April 27, 2013 - 11:29

    Needs a complete overhaul ... new name , new singer , new everything & get rid of that outdated old school PA announcer.

  • lilley
    April 27, 2013 - 10:44

    What's in a name? There is only one (or two) choices, of course it has to be "The Charlottetown (or Summerside) Rocket Spuds"!

  • new name please
    April 27, 2013 - 10:39

    Great news! I agree with other posters in that the team can't be called the Prince Edward Island Islanders...

  • harry toombs
    April 27, 2013 - 10:15

    Great news for all? No i have read some pretty pathetic comments on this site! Why do people believe that the Government has anything to do with this purchase? You people who criticize obviously have nothing else to do with your time!! Congrats to Trent and his group for the very hard work to find a buyer for the Rocket!! Oh by the way the new name Islanders was picked by and far over any other name by ISLANDERS!! It is a great name so get over it LOSERS!!!

  • chriscurrie
    April 27, 2013 - 09:56

    Great Job Trent and to the rest of the group for getting this deal done and keeping this team here...not just about hockey, it's about keeping this product here and providing a much needed financial boost for us in the winter months...this generates revenue for our hotels, restaurants etc. when the other teams are here from off Island... I do like the idea of having a few regular season games at the Credit Union Place in S-SIde..could generate more ISLAND support with the youth up there? Great work guys and gals!!!!

  • Jason
    April 27, 2013 - 09:16

    I'm glad to see the Rocket are staying in Charlottetown. Now that the team has new owners, they can get down to business and decide what is the best name to use for the team and what can be done to liven up the inside of the Civic Centre. If it were up to me, I'd leave the Rocket name intact, but change the logo. Gone would be the rocket that forms the number nine that was of course a tribute to Maurice Richard, and replace it with a logo that has the outline of PEI and a rocket blasting off of it, or maybe something else similar. As for the Civic Centre, the place feels too much like a community rink. In order to make it have that professional hockey feel, the scoreboard must be replaced with a modern HD video one. It is amazing how a new scoreboard can change the atmosphere inside.

  • Valerie Green
    April 27, 2013 - 09:07

    Hockey mom I disagree with you about a "full House" for your Rocket games every time the news was on they were constantly complaining that there was no one in the rink....so and if they had full house status they wouldnt being losing momey. Hope it works out but keep them in chtown I for one dont want to see them in sside!

  • FOUR STICKS
    April 27, 2013 - 08:23

    Well done Birt , should inflate his ego even more.

  • HockeyFan
    April 27, 2013 - 08:19

    I am happy that they bought the Rockets but if you do decide to change the name do not change it to Prince Edward Island Islanders. One of the dumbest hockey teams names I heard of. Just my thoughts and probably a lot of others too. Also the fans did not choose that name it was obviously just for the new logo so you make more money because people would buy new jerseys, hats, etc.

    • The Facilitator
      April 27, 2013 - 13:45

      I agree change the name to: " The Charlottetown Islanders"

  • Let's Go Rocket
    April 27, 2013 - 08:16

    Great news for PEI !!! Thanks to the investors who pulled this out! And thanks to the rocket organization for working so hard to make this happen. For hockey fans having a major jr hockey team is the most exciting hockey we'll ever have on PEI. With the right leadership and engaging locals this is the turning point for this great franchise. There are some great young players coming back next year - Graves, Laplante, Bibeau, Pepin - who'll have break out years and be very exciting to watch.

  • Jim Delaney
    April 27, 2013 - 07:59

    Congrats to all involved in keeping the junior team in Charlottetown. Major junior hockey is filled with future NHL stars. Look what the Halifax Mooseheads are doing for that city. Raise ticket prices to keep the investors, and black out local TV.

  • Old Abbie Fan
    April 27, 2013 - 07:59

    Great news! Please call them the Charlottetown Abbies that will definitely sell some season tickets.

  • gloria large
    April 27, 2013 - 00:43

    Congrats to you Trent Birt for all your hard work. Local ownership will benefit the team and the community. More people will go to the rink to see the Jr. Islanders - Islanders never seemed to warm up to the Savards or the Rocket. Too many Leaf fans here, I'm thinkin...

  • Nor'easter
    April 26, 2013 - 23:26

    I couldn't imagine that there is someone on PEI that would like to loose over $35000 a year. Oh , well the PEI government doesnt mind and Charlottetown doesnt mind because the get gural development money so I guess it will fly for awhile......maybe..........fools

  • PUCKED UP
    April 26, 2013 - 23:03

    Great news! Now, time for a jersey design contest! Let the fans help create the Islanders' identity!

  • Rocket fan
    April 26, 2013 - 22:48

    Great news. Now, get rid of that silly "Islanders" name (keep the new "Penguins" colours though...that will look sharp). Hold a logo contest (maybe even do it in the schools to get some kids interested). Get someone in there that can market this team properly (need more corporate sponsorship...think beyond PEI). And above all else, improve the scouting system.

  • Hockey not Hospitals in PEI
    April 26, 2013 - 21:56

    Consortium Business Plan: Ask the government for money. Ghiz Response: We Hate Islanders, so here is their money. We'll lay another 200 people off for this failing team. Consortium Business Plan Phase II: Ask the government for even more money. Ghiz Response: Close another hospital. The people need hockey more than health care. If there is even a hint of taxpayer funding in this business plan while hospitals are being closed and sick children are being denied medicine they need to survive Robert Ghiz should be imprisoned.

    • The Facilitator
      April 27, 2013 - 13:41

      Why do you have to post such ridiculous negative comments on a good news story? Don't you have anything better to do? Where in the article does it state that the government is financing anything?

  • ace freely
    April 26, 2013 - 21:21

    Thanks Trent.... What an effort to ensure major junior stays on the Island. The city as well as PEI owes you a lot. People don't realize what we almost lost, and if it were not for you I am pretty sure major junior hockey would be gone for the next 10-20 years.

  • Islandvoter
    April 26, 2013 - 21:20

    There better not be government money involved in this puchase

  • RocketFan
    April 26, 2013 - 21:18

    Please Dump the Prince Edward Island Islander name!! If you are really stuck on that name, at least have the sense to call them the PRINCE EDWARD ISLANDERS. and the P.E. Islanders. Cant have Island in there twice. So glad the team is staying. I personally like the Rocket. name.

  • Adolphus
    April 26, 2013 - 21:03

    Why doesn't Eastlink have a regional black-out policy when games are held? People who would go to the rink are staying home watching it on TV.

    • Larry
      April 28, 2013 - 09:09

      Yeah....that joke if a TV production must keep at least 12 people away from the rink. People in this city just don't care about major junior hockey.

  • Afamilyfullofrocketfans
    April 26, 2013 - 20:42

    This is wonderful news! We are looking forward to another season cheering for the rockets, especially my two year old. He is a huge fan, his first full sentence was go rockets go. Thank you to those who have bought the rockets, we are looking forward to making new memories next season.

  • yesss
    April 26, 2013 - 20:24

    PEI Jr Islanders should be the teams name. cannot leave out the "Jr".

  • CheaperTickets
    April 26, 2013 - 20:24

    hmmm so is anybody going to go to the games? 1400 in the seats for a team that made the playoffs is pretty terrible in my mind. I can't imagine why people wanted to keep it here?

    • Hockey mom
      April 27, 2013 - 06:27

      Clearly you aren't a Rocket supporter, the 1400 in the seats was for The Caps play off games, the Rocket had a full house!!!! I'm am beyond happy the team is staying, can't wait to get my tickets for next season!!!

  • congrats
    April 26, 2013 - 20:02

    congrats on buying and keeping the team on pei. would sure love to see some games in summerside, if you could split between the cities i believe you would see more season tickets sold at each place, as well as giving people in the western parts of the island a better chance to go see them play, a drive from tignish to summerside rather than charlottetown would make the world of difference in people affording to go to a game, therefore drawing from a fan base not available if everything was in charlottetown, also may i make a suggestion in the naming process, if you decide to keep the islanders name, please drop an i and call them the PE Islanders not the PEI Islanders, the latter sounds dumb. once again congrats and good luck

  • chriscurrie
    April 26, 2013 - 19:45

    Awesome news!!!

  • Nalda Wheeler
    April 26, 2013 - 19:26

    We are more than pleased to hear the good news and anyway we can help please let us know. (other than season passes). As you know, hockey is in our blood. Well done. Nalda & Bruce Wheeler.

  • HockeyFan
    April 26, 2013 - 18:59

    Yes!! Finally some great news! I looking forward to next season! Go Rocket Go!!!

  • Matt
    April 26, 2013 - 18:53

    Congrats PEI! Now get out and support your team next season so this doesn't happen again. Here's hoping they come up with a better name than Prince Edward Island Islanders.