The CFL has been talking about Maritime expansion for decades. In May of 1982, Halifax was awarded a conditional franchise, the Atlantic Schooners, who were set to begin play in the summer of 1984. The stadium, which was supposed to be built-in Dartmouth was never built and the team still boasts a record of 0-0. The league would play two exhibition games in Saint John in the mid 1980s (Winnipeg vs. Montreal in 1986 followed by Hamilton vs. Montreal the following year. The league returned the region in 2005 when Hamilton and Toronto played the first Touchdown Atlantic at Huskies Stadium in Halifax. Much like the NFL’s London experiment, the CFL would scrap the exhibition games in the region and play full-fledged regular season games in Moncton in 2010, 2011 and 2013.
In order to drum up support for bringing professional baseball to the region, someone needs to step up to the plate (sorry for the pun) and bring real live professional ball games to see how they would draw. Seeing there’s little sports related entertainment going on in the region from the last hockey game in the spring to the opening of QMJHL & AUS football camps in August, there’s no reason why baseball couldn’t fill that void. But to test this theory, it would be interesting to see how a neutral site series would draw in the region. We could even give it a fancy name like Home Run Atlantic. The ideal location for these games would be Moncton’s Kiwanis Park as the city is centrally located and the park hold 3,500 people (expanded to 7,500). This makes it the largest ballpark in Canada east of Quebec City.
The dream scenario would be to bring in the Eastern League’s Portland Sea Dogs and New Hampshire Fisher Cats for a series. There’s no reason why a well marketed series between these two clubs wouldn’t be a hit in this market. First, it’ll be the highest level of baseball ever played here. The EL is an AA circuit, making it just two levels below MLB. So the players are on the cusp of The Show. In fact, it’s not unheard of for guys to jump to the Major Leagues straight from AA, bypassing AAA entirely. Second, these teams are affiliated with the Red Sox and Blue Jays respectively. Being these are the two most popular baseball teams in the region many potential fans would have a rooting interest in such a matchup. Third, these are the two closest Minor League Baseball teams to the region. This is a benefit in at least two ways. Being close to the region cuts down on expenses to bus the teams here and being close to the teams may lead to some fans from Portland and Manchester making the trip up here to see their teams play.
A more realistic scenario would see the Can-Am League play games in the region. First, the league is the mostly likely to ever put a team here. Second, the league has a history of playing neutral site games. The Quebec Capitales played some regular season games in Trois-Rivieres prior to that city receiving a team in 2013. Also in 2013, both of those Quebec based clubs played exhibitions in Montreal. These were the first pro ball games in Montreal since the relocation of Les Expos. Third, the league in 2014 at least, will be boasting a Road Team. Since the Road Team is well a road team it’ll be difficult for them to start rivalries with other teams, making them an easy opponent to move home games against. Heck, they could even give them a limited number of “home” games played in test markets as a way of not having anyone give up a home game themselves. Four, being a less developed league than the Eastern League, the CanAm could hold games in places other than Moncton. Throw some temporary bleachers at Mainland North Common and that park could hold games for one weekend to test the Halifax market for pro ball.
All in all it would be fun to see some level of professional baseball played in the Maritimes, even if it is just a one-off series. Of course, a succesful one-off could lead to something more permanent if it proves Maritimers have an appetite for minor league ball.