Hamilton to Brantford for good?

April 27, 2023

It is being termed as a temporary three-year relocation for the Hamilton Bulldogs when they move 25 or so miles along Highway 403 to Brantford effective the 2023-2024 Ontario Hockey League season. But could the Bulldogs remain in Brantford for good?

Due to impending renovations and long-term closure of the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton, the Bulldogs are officially moving to Brantford and the upgraded Civic Centre on a three-year lease commencing with the ’23-24 campaign.

Brantford City Council quickly put its full support behind the move with a unanimous 11-0 vote that not only approved a three-year term with Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer but the two sides further agreed on an option to extend the compliance for three additional one-year terms beyond the 2025-2026 season.

And Andlauer, who has been often been at odds with city politicians since buying the Belleville Bulls franchise in 2015 and moving it to Hamilton that year, has received an overwhelming early welcome from the folks in Brantford.

“We are so thankful for the enthusiastic and immediate response from Mayor (Kevin) Davis, Brantford Council and city staff,” Andlauer said when the relocation from Hamilton to Brantford was announced ahead of the ’23-24 season. “Together, we have been able to make a home for the Bulldogs in a short and unexpected period of time.”

In turn, Davis as the Mayor of Brantford expressed confidence that his city will support the Bulldogs.

“I am very excited about bringing an OHL team to Brantford and thrilled that Council has enthusiastically endorsed this partnership,” said Davis. “Based on the community’s reaction, I am very confident that the Bulldogs fanbase will grow substantially in Brantford.”

To be sure, hockey fans in Brantford have already stepped up in support of the Bulldogs with more than 2,500 season tickets already sold for the ’23-24 season. That season ticket number is twice what the Bulldogs have had in Hamilton despite winning OHL championships in both 2018 and 2022.

This will be Brantford’s second run at having an OHL team, having housed the Alexanders from 1978 to 1984 only to leave town because of lukewarm fan support. But this is a different time and with fans already showing support for the Bulldogs in terms of those 2,500 season tickets already being sold for the ’23-24 campaign, a second go-round just might prove to be a charm for the OHL in Brantford.

Certainly, over many decades, Hamilton has shown an indifference to the OHL with a number of franchises coming and going. Indeed, Hamilton has been home to a host of OHL franchises since 1960. First, it was the Hamilton Red Wings from 1960 to 1974. Then came the Hamilton Fincups from 1974 to 1978. Then, after an absence of six years, it was the Hamilton Steelhawks from 1984 to 1988 followed shortly thereafter by the Dukes of Hamilton from 1989 to 1991. Then came a lengthy lull until 2015 when the Hamilton Bulldogs came into being following the purchase and relocation of the Belleville Bulls.

Now, Hamilton will be without an OHL team for the next three years — maybe longer, maybe for good — as Brantford takes over as the new home of the Bulldogs. And with millions of dollars being spent to upgrade the Brantford Civic Centre and with aforementioned Bulldogs owner Michael Andlauer very keen on what potentially lies ahead in the team’s new home, the temporary relocation from Hamilton just might end up being permanent.


They were here for a good time, not a long time.

To be sure, their history is one of modest length yet the Brantford Alexanders remain an iconic OHL franchise mainly because of the number of high performance players who wore their red-white-and-black jersey from 1978 to 1984.

Initially the Hamilton Red Wings, then the Hamilton Fincups and St. Catharines Fincups, the franchise moved to Brantford in 1978 only to return to Hamilton in 1984 to become the Steelhawks. From there it became the Niagara Falls Thunder before another relocation of the franchise resulted in what are now the Erie Otters.

Meanwhile, even though the OHL was never a big hit in Brantford in its first go round, where the Alexanders drew average crowds in the 1,500 range, alumni representing the erstwhile the A’s reads like a virtual who’s who.

Consider the lengthy list of Alexanders alumni who made an impact in the OHL and then went on to play in the National Hockey League — goalies Allan Bester, Rick Wamsley and Chris Pusey, defensemen Mike Lalor, Randy Ladouceur, Ric Nattress, Bruce Bell, Mark Botell and Tony Curtale and forwards Mike Bullard, Shayne Corson, Dave Gagner, Dave Hannan, Mark Hunter, Bob Probert, Greg Terrion, Perry Anderson, Kevin LaVallee, Jason Lafreniere, Jeff Jackson, Len Hachborn, Paul Marshall, Darryl Evans, Mike Hoffman, Mike Millar et al.

And the list of high end players who skated in Brantford who may not have become NHLers but do have a history as memorable Alexanders is just as impressive — goalies Darren Cossar and Rick Pikul, defensemen Grant Anderson, Tom Searle, Tom Della Maestra, Dave Robson, John Meulenbroeks, Rob Moffat and Tyler Verhaeghe and forwards Todd Francis, Rick Goodfellow, Chris Kurysh, Ron Leef, Terry Maki, Rick Pickersgill, Arthur Rutland, Scott Vanderburgh et al.

Notably, from a Sault Ste. Marie standpoint, the Alexanders have a strong link to the Soo via a number of players.

Of those, Terry Maki is a Soo boy while Dave Hannan, Bob Probert, Bruce Bell, Dave Robson, Jeff Mitchell and Arthur Rutland (who hails from Wawa) all played for the Greyhounds before or after they suited up for Brantford. 

The Alexanders never won an OHL championship — nor did they ever make it to the league finals — but they had some success under coach-general manager Dave Draper.

Three times the Alexanders hooked up in memorable playoff series with the powerhouse Soo Greyhounds only to lose all three times — including a seven-game affair in 1981-1982.

Gary Corbiere

Meanwhile, and again on a Sault Ste. Marie note, it says here that, pound for pound, the toughest player to ever wear a Brantford Alexanders uniform was left winger Gary Corbiere.

Standing in at 5-foot-10 and tipping the scales at 175 pounds, the hard-nosed Corbiere played in 85 games for Brantford after being acquired in a trade with the Sudbury Wolves for fellow forward Dean DeFazio.

As much as he made an impact as a feisty, fearless youngster who improbably made the OHL despite not being drafted, Corbiere went on to make a further name for himself beyond hockey. 

Hailing from Batchewana First Nation just outside Sault Ste. Marie, Corbiere would go on to become a famed lawyer before he tragically drowned in Lake Simcoe on August 8, 2004 at age 41 while out on his boat. He had a cottage on Georgina Island and traveled frequently to the mainland to work in Toronto.

Corbiere was the lawyer who successfully argued in the Supreme Court of Canada for the right of off-reserve, First Nation peoples to have a substantial say in the decisions made on their reserve. The legendary, landmark case in constitutional law became known as the Corbiere Decision.

Members of Gary’s family still reside in the Sault Ste. Marie area. His dad, John (Duke) Corbiere, once served as chief of Batchewana First Nation of Ojibways.

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