Jakob Chychrun is just one useful piece Derian Hatcher and David Legwand can build around in Sarnia. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
The high-profile purchase of the Sarnia Sting bodes well for the franchise's future, as Hatcher and Legwand have no plans to move the team.
It was only a matter of time before the Sarnia Sting sale went down. It's finally happened, with noteworthy new ownership. Retired NHLer Derian Hatcher, the first American to captain a Stanley Cup winner, and current Ottawa Senators center David Legwand have purchased the team from Rob and Larry Ciccarelli. The agreement has been signed and requires approval from the OHL's board of governors, which is expected to go over smoothly, according to Terry Bridge of the Sarnia Observer, who first reported the sale.
Sarnia citizens can breathe a sigh of relief. This particular sale does not mirror that of the Plymouth Whalers, which involves moving the team to Flint, Mich. The Sting aren't going anywhere. It appears any change Hatcher and Legwand (a Plymouth alumnus, oddly enough) plan to effect will be positive and, most importantly, stationary. The Ciccarellis said they only planned to sell the team if the prospective owners were committed to keeping it in Sarnia, and that "Derian and David have made that commitment."
That said, Hatcher, who has a home in Marine City, Mich., plans a hands-on approach to the Sting, especially because he doesn't have NHL aspirations and intends to grow his roots in major junior. He and Legwand have something to work with already, too. The Sting are a respectable 22-16-3-2 and have some serious prospects in the pipeline, many of whom are injured or were earlier this season. Pavel Zacha projects as a borderline top-10 pick in this June's NHL draft, and man-child blueliner Jakob Chychrun looks like a top-three favorite for 2016.
Hatcher said he won't fiddle with the coaching and management until at least the off-season, which makes sense given the job Trevor Letowski (coach), Andy Delmore (assistant coach) and Nick Sinclair (GM) have done. As Yahoo's Neate Seager points out, Hatcher does have a large network of Michigan-based hockey minds to draw from going forward, including his retired NHLer brother Kevin, now an assistant coach with the famed Detroit Honeybaked midget program.
It certainly seems like Hatcher drives the bus at this time. What does the sale mean for the still-active Legwand? He turns 35 this summer, he's in decline with 1,000-plus games on his odometer and he has one year remaining on his deal. It wouldn't be surprising to see the Detroit native call it quits after next season and turn his attention to Sarnia. Then again, he reportedly told Hatcher he wants to play five more years. It remains to be seen if Legwand's body permits him to do that. He and Hatcher didn't know each other before they started pursuing the sale, but they shared an agent and Legwand reached out to Hatcher.
All in all, Sarnia should celebrate this sale. The team isn't going anywhere, and it's now in the hands of capable hockey minds with good contacts, which can only help the recruitment process.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin