Erie Otters File for Bankruptcy, Is There Room for Them in Buffalo?

Terry Pegula, owner of the Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres, Rochester Americans, Buffalo Bandits, and possibly the Erie Otters? The owner of the Erie, PA team, Sherry Bassin, announced the team’s decision to file for bankruptcy early this morning.

“Today’s filing provides us with the opportunity to continue to execute our business plan on a stronger footing, maintain normal operations of the hockey club as it fights toward an OHL championship, and smoothly continue the ongoing sale process. All of our efforts are focused on concluding this process in an efficient and successful manner.”

The announcement comes just a day before the Otters faceoff for the second-round of the OHL playoff series against the London Knights at the Erie Insurance Arena. Since their move from Niagara Falls, Ontario to Erie, PA in 1996, the Otters have made it to the postseason in 13 of their last 19 seasons in Pennsylvania. In those 13 runs, only one resulted in an OHL Championship (2001-02). 

Ex-Sabre Brad Boyes played a major role in the Erie Otters 2001-02 OHL Championship season. He was awarded the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award for being the playoffs MVP.  Picture courtesy of Nick Laham/Getty Images

Ex-Sabre Brad Boyes played a major role in the Erie Otters 2001-02 OHL Championship season. He was awarded the Wayne Gretzky 99 Award for being the playoffs MVP. 

Picture courtesy of Nick Laham/Getty Images

Wouldn't it be  fitting for Terry Pegula, owner of everything that is soon to be “Hockey Heaven” in downtown Buffalo, to add a very prominent junior hockey club to the laundry list of teams he already owns? I could go on listing the names of today’s NHL superstars that came through the OHL, but just saying Connor McDavid should be enough for now. Instead of hearing about how great these prospects are, could the city of Buffalo be given the opportunity to witness it live? It happened once in October and if I’m not mistaken the Otters set a franchise attendance record at First Niagara Center for the game against the Niagara Ice Dogs.

If Buffalo is trying to climb the ranks to become one of the biggest hockey markets in North America, I wouldn’t be opposed to the acquisition. Just think of all the rivalries that could flourish at the US/Canada border, one specifically being the Niagara Ice Dogs based in St. Catherines, Ontario. If the Otters were to move to Canada, there will only be two US teams left in the OHL, the Saginaw Spirit and the Flint Firebirds. Heck, they could even keep their name if they moved to Buffalo. And on top of all this, who wouldn’t like to Jay McKee behind the bench as the assistant captain for the Erie Otters?

Jay McKee (pictured on the left) was announced as the assistant coach of the Erie Otters for the 2014-15 season. He was the Sabres 1st round pick (14th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. 

Jay McKee (pictured on the left) was announced as the assistant coach of the Erie Otters for the 2014-15 season. He was the Sabres 1st round pick (14th overall) in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. 

Could it happen? Most likely not. It would require another rink to be built. The average OHL hockey rink should be large enough to hold around 5000 people and the Harbor Center is well below that capacity at only 1800. First Niagara Center is out of the picture as well. The scheduling between the Bandits, Sabres and other major events would just be a major headache. Wishful thinking on my part, but I wish the organization the best and I'm curious as to where they will go from here.