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

Jason Malloy jmalloy@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on April 27, 2013

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.