ST. JOHN'S, N.L. -- The Manitoba Moose are marching to Newfoundland in a deal that brings the American Hockey League back to the province after a six-year absence.
The AHL's board of governors announced Friday it approved the franchise's move from Winnipeg to St. John's.
The deal was met with thunderous applause from hundreds of hockey fans who attended a news conference hosted by Danny Williams at Mile One Centre, where the team will play.
"I said these three words once before ... 'We got it!"' beamed the former premier, who will help run the team.
His words are an allusion to an announcement he made when he was still in office in January 2005 after he revised an offshore revenue deal with Ottawa that gave the province $2 billion.
The AHL club had to leave Winnipeg after True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thrashers late last month with the intention of moving them to the Manitoba capital. True North also owns the Moose.
The event to officially announce the team's move to St. John's included some of the province's best-know celebrities including comedian March Critch of "This Hour has 22 Minutes," actor Allan Hawco of "Republic of Doyle" and singer Alan Doyle of Great Big Sea. All of them were decked out in hockey jerseys declaring "The AHL is Back."
The St. John's club is yet to be named. Williams has already dismissed the idea of keeping the Moose moniker because of the negative connotations associated with the mammal due to the estimated 700 moose collisions in his province annually.
The team will serve as the AHL affiliate for the as-yet named Winnipeg franchise starting in 2011-12.
The AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs were relocated to become the Toronto Marlies in 2005 after 14 seasons.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's St. John's Fog Devils were founded in 2005, but left to become the Montreal Juniors in 2008.
"The American Hockey League is excited to be returning to St. John's," AHL president David Andrews said in a statement.
"The people of Newfoundland and Labrador showed tremendous support for our league in the past, and we're confident that passion will return to Mile One Centre this fall."
The club's operations team will be led by Williams and Glenn Stanford, former general manager of the St. John's Maple Leafs and more recently, president of the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Williams was vocal in his support for the return of AHL hockey to St. John's. But he nearly lost his bid after the government he once led rejected his request for an annual $500,000 public subsidy.