By Chuck Allard
The North American National Hockey League has revealed extraordinary plans to allow a new hockey franchise team to join from Britain.
And the Suffolk Gazette can exclusively reveal the new team is being proposed for Stowmarket.
The franchise, to be called the Stow Meerkats, will be based at a new arena to be built on the Morrisons site when the supermarket closes later this year.
It is believed that Stowmarket was chosen because of widespread local disappointment that SnOasis, the indoor sporting wonderland planned for nearby Great Blakenham, has so far failed to move forward.
Mid Suffolk District Council, despite initial concerns about traffic and “loud hollering and whooping”, are expected to rubber stamp the plans for a change of use to the site and the new 8,000-seat arena.
Stow Meerkats spokesman, local businessman Carter Tremblay said negotiations with the National Hockey League, which traditionally only accepts teams from the United States and Canada, had been swift and surprisingly simple.
“They saw the merit of extending the NHL into Europe, and Stowmarket, despite not being known as a go-ahead town, ticked all the boxes.
“We realise that ice hockey is currently not very popular in Suffolk, but we will invest in a very expensive public relations exercise and have excellent discounts on season tickets and merchandise for the first season.
“We’d also love for the team to have locals playing in it, so we aim to have a series of trials for people to come and have a go.
“This is an extraordinary chance to put Stowmarket on the map. If the hockey franchise is the success we expect it to be, then you can bet that tens of thousands of tourists from the US and Canada will come and visit.
“We really are very excited by the prospect of playing teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks.”
An NHL insider said: “The Stow Meerkats has assured us Stowmarket is one of the biggest cities in the UK, and the locals are passionate about the sport. We are delighted to be working with them and extending the NHL across the pond into Europe.”
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