They May Move But The Saints Have Always Been Successful:
Home is where the heart is, but in the case of the longest running franchise in the annals of the AJHL, their heart has actually been in three different spots ¬— one of them twice.
The team that originally began as the Edmonton Movers was based in the capital city from 1966 through 1972. Poor fan attendance resulted in a move to Spruce Grove beginning in the 1973 season. That team became known as the Mets and while they had success, including winning the national junior A championship in the 1975-76 season and reaching the finals of the same event the next year, they were uprooted after only four seasons and moved to St. Albert.
George Cuff, the former parks and recreation supervisor for Spruce Grove at that time, said there was a lot of angst generated when the junior team floated the idea of moving to Spruce Grove as local arena user groups feared they’d lose valuable ice time.
“It became a fairly significant issue because we’d just opened what is now called the Grant Fuhr Arena and minor hockey, men’s hockey, figure skating, all had issues. There were a number of community meetings held with hot and heavy debate whether the Mets should be allowed. It wasn’t a slam dunk in terms of having them in; it was a controversial issue.”
After several such meetings, the Mets ownership group of Jack Reed, Roger Ratsoy and Richard Fuhr managed to placate the affected groups and the team moved in. The Mets had success almost from the start but then things began heading down the wrong track when the ownership group fell out of favour with the town’s fans of the day. As a result they decided they’d be better off moving to another community.
“I think the appropriate way of it being worded would be to say it (the move) was a result of the animosity between fans and management,” said Cuff. “That did not lead to the support they needed to stay in Spruce Grove. … I don’t think there was much opposition to them going.”
The then coach of the team, Doug Messier along with Reed packed the team up and moved them to St. Albert where they were to remain for an extended period of time. Eventually the team was sold to Blaine Galbraith and Drew Schamehorn after financial difficulties forced the first pair to let the team go.
“They asked me to sit on their (executive) board and the next thing I knew, I was being written up in the local paper as the owner of the team,” laughed Shamehorn, who actually did purchase the club in 1997.
The Saints played in a small rink and when they couldn’t get the city council of the day to build them a new one they again moved, this time back to Spruce Grove.
At that time Spruce Grove businessman Darren Myshak invested heavily in having the then storied franchise return to his city and the team has continued to excel both on and off the ice.
Since that return to Spruce Grove the Saints have won two AJHL championships and the AJHL North Division title three times. As well, the organization has continued with their mandate to move players up the ladder as the Movers/Mets/Saints have continually produced top-level talent that college scouts both in Canada and U.S. seek to sign to their school’s hockey team.
By Gord Montgomery