|City||St. Catharines, Ontario|
|League||Ontario Hockey League|
|Home arena||Jack Gatecliff Arena|
|Colours||Red, black, white
|General manager||Marty Williamson|
|Head coach||Marty Williamson|
|Affiliate(s)||St. Catharines Falcons|
The Niagara IceDogs are a major junior ice hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League based in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The franchise was originally known as the Mississauga IceDogs and founded in 1996. The team was relocated to St. Catharines and played its inaugural season in the Niagara region during the 2007–08 OHL season after spending 9 seasons in Mississauga. The team is owned by Bill and Denise Burke.
Early Years, 1998-2007
The Mississauga IceDogs inaugural season began in 1998-99, and the team struggled, winning only 4 of 68 games. In their first three seasons, the IceDogs won a total of 16 games, in 204 games played. The nine season tenure in Mississauga saw the IceDogs finish with a .301 win percentage in 612 regular season games and win one Central Division and Eastern Conference Championship.
On July 12, 2006, Eugene Melnyk, who owned the Toronto St. Michael's Majors, bought the Mississauga IceDogs. After the 2006–07 season, Melnyk sold the IceDogs, and moved the Majors to the Hershey Centre in Mississauga. The team approached the City of St. Catharines about moving the team into Jack Gatecliff Arena. St. Catharines City Council voted on a leasing arrangement on April 23, 2007, which passed. The OHL Board of Governors approved the deal on June 5, 2007.
Brown/Cicchillo Era, 2007-2010
- 2007–08 season
The IceDogs entered their first season in Niagara ranked in the CHL's top ten, but soon fell out of the league's top rankings. The team played their first regular season home game against the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors in front of a sellout crowd on September 21, 2007. The IceDogs won the game, defeating the Majors 4-1. Over the course of the season, the IceDogs developed a major rivalry with the Mississauga Majors. In December, right-winger Stefan Legein represented Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Tournament and earned a gold medal in the process.
On January 8, 2008, the IceDogs acquired goaltender Sebastian Dahm from the Sudbury Wolves in exchange for goaltender Andrew Loverock, defenceman Chris van Laren, a 3rd round draft pick in 2009 and a sixth round draft pick in 2010. Dahm finished the season with the IceDogs, earning a record of 20-6-0-0, a GAA of 2.53 and a save percentage of 0.917.
After selling out (3,145) their first home game, attendance figures remained low until Christmas. After Christmas, however, attendance increased significantly. The IceDogs finished the year averaging 2,722 fans and led the league with 15 sellout crowds.
The IceDogs finished the regular season with 82 points, three shy of Brampton for the central division title. Luca Caputi finished the season with 111 points (4th in league scoring) while Michael Swift's 100 points put him 8th in league scoring. The team total in penalty minutes (1463) led the league.
- 2008–09 season
The IceDogs began the 2008–09 season considerably younger than they ended the previous season. Gone were the likes of goaltender Sebastian Dahm, Michael Swift (age), defenceman Matt Corrente (AHL), leading scorer Luca Caputi, Stefan Legein and Alex Pietrangelo. The core of the roster was made up of 16, 17, and 18 year olds and the team was plagued by inconsistent play at the start of the year.
On November 13 (21 games into the season) it was announced the St. Louis Blues were returning 4th overall selection Alex Pietrangelo to the Niagara IceDogs for an additional year of development at the junior level. He had played a total of eight games with St. Louis prior to being reassigned. On April 10, 2009, he was assigned to the Blues' top minor-league affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen in the American Hockey League.
The IceDogs hosted one of two Ontario games in the ADT Canada-Russia Challenge on November 22. The IceDogs were represented by draft-eligible forward Andrew Agozzino and defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, while Coach Mario Cichillo was selected to serve as the team's assistant coach. The OHL squad won the game 3-2 in front of a sellout crowd. The winning goal was scored by Agozzino.
In December, forward Marco Insam represented Italy at the World Junior Championships ('B' Pool), while Pietrangelo was named to Canada's World Junior team, which won a fifth straight gold medal. The Dogs were once again active at the trade deadline, acquiring Patrick Lee and former World Junior goalie and Nashville draft pick Jeremy Smith from Plymouth for three draft picks. The Dogs had previously traded defenceman Scott Fletcher to Plymouth for a draft pick, which was sent back to Plymouth as a part of the Smith trade. After acquiring Smith, the Dogs shipped goalie John Cullen to the Kingston for a draft pick. In two separate trades with divisional rivals Brampton, Niagara acquired Mike Hasson and two draft picks for Andrew Merrett, Josh Day, and a draft pick.
- 2009-10 season
The IceDogs began the season without Alex Pietrangelo, who spent the first part of the season playing in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues, and without a 2009 first round draft pick. The IceDogs selected forward Lucas Lessio with the 7th overall pick, but Lessio refused to sign with the IceDogs and was sent to the Oshawa Generals in early September for a compensatory first round pick, a second round pick, and a conditional draft pick. Despite not having Lessio in the line-up, the team broke came with a young roster including three sixteen-year-olds.
In November, fan favorite Chris DeSousa and defenceman Jay Gilbert quit the team and demanded a trade. In advance of the trade deadline, the IceDogs dealt Gilbert to the Plymouth Whalers, and in a blockbuster trade, sent DeSousa, goalie Petteri Simila, and Alex Pietrangelo (who had yet to be reassigned to the OHL) to the conference leading Barrie Colts for first-round pick Ryan Strome, defenceman Simon Gronvaldt, and a package of draft picks. Following the trade, the IceDogs had five sixteen-year-olds on the roster, making them the youngest team in the league and providing a solid core for the teams rebuilding process.
Marty Williamson Era, 2010-Present
- 2010-11 season
In May, the IceDogs became the first team in OHL history to have two first round picks, their own (6th overall), plus an additional compensatory pick they received for being unable to sign 2009 first round pick Lucas Lessio. The IceDogs used those picks to select two defencemen, Jesse Graham and Luke Mercer. However, two days after the draft, the team announced that it had fired General Manager Dave Brown and was letting go of Head Coach Mike McCourt and his assistants. In July, the IceDogs announced that they had signed Marty Williamson to a five-year contract as both Head Coach and General Manager. Former NHL defenceman Mike Van Ryn was later added as the team's assistant coach. Days prior to the opening game, the IceDogs acquired forward Steven Shipley (Buffalo's 4th round selection in 2010) from the Owen Sound Attack in exchange for Andrew Shaw, Matt Petgrave, and draft picks. Within a week, Niagara added three more NHL draftees: overage defenceman Tim Billingsley, a former Phoenix Coyotes draft pick, was picked up from the St. Michael's Majors for a 4th round draft pick, New York Rangers draft pick Jason Wilson was acquired from Owen Sound in exchange for Andrew Fritsch, and David Pacan, a Chicago Blackhawks pick, was signed by the IceDogs after leaving the NCAA.
- 2011-12 season
In August, assistant coach Mike Van Ryn left to coach in the AHL and was replaced by former Guelph Storm coach and GM Jason Brooks. Later, the IceDogs were forced to trade first round draft pick Adam Bateman to Windsor after he refused to report to camp.
Ready to take the next step after losing in the conference finals to Mississauga, Niagara completed numerous trades to bolster their lineup to take a shot at the OHL title. Arriving at different times in the year were former Soo captain Brock Beukeboom, Tom Kuhnhackl from Windsor, Brett Ritchie from Sarnia, and Jamie Oleksiak from Saginaw. All four of these acquisitions were NHL draft picks. At the end of the season, the Dogs were playing with 12 NHL draft picks, including four 1st round picks.
The season would prove to be the best year in franchise history as the IceDogs won their first Central Division and Eastern Conference Championships but then ultimately fell to the regular season champion London Knights in 5 games in the OHL finals.
Central Division Champions
Bobby Orr Trophy
Eastern Conference Champions
Mario Cicchillo was promoted from assistant coach in 2006–07 for Mississauga, to become the first coach of the Niagara IceDogs after it was announced that head coach Mike Kelly resigned to accept a senior advisory position with the team. In August 2009, Cicchillo was fired and assistant coach Mike McCourt was named interim head coach. In early May 2010, the IceDogs announced that the team would not be renewing the contracts McCourt and his assistants. Former Barrie Colt coach/general manager Marty Williamson was named coach and general manager of the IceDogs in late May 2010.
- 2007-2009 Mario Cicchillo
- 2009-2010 Mike McCourt (Interim)
- 2010–present Marty Williamson
NHL Draft Picks
- 2008 - Alex Pietrangelo, 1st round (4th overall) St. Louis
- 2010 - Mark Visentin, 1st round (27th overall) Phoenix
- 2010 - Freddie Hamilton, 5th round (129th overall) San Jose
- 2010 - Alex Friesen, 6th round (172nd overall) Vancouver
- 2011 - Ryan Strome, 1st round (5th overall) New York Islanders
- 2011 - Dougie Hamilton, 1st round (9th overall) Boston
- 2011 - Mitchell Theoret, 7th round (185th overall) New York Islanders
- 2012 - Jesse Graham, 6th round (155th overall) New York Islanders
Ontario Hockey League
Bobby Smith Trophy
Dave Pinkney Trophy
Ivan Tennant Memorial Award
Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy
Max Kaminsky Trophy
Mickey Renaud Captain's Trophy
Canadian Hockey League
Single season records
Career scoring and goalie leaders
These are the top-ten point-scorers in regular season franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed OHL regular season.
These are the top-five goalies (ranked by wins) in regular season franchise history. Figures are updated after each completed OHL regular season.
Legend: OTL = Overtime loss, SL = Shootout loss
Uniforms and logos
The IceDogs colours are red, black and white. The home jersey is black with red, black and white sleeves with two crossed dog bones on each shoulder. The away jersey is white with red, black and white sleeves with two crossed dog bones on each shoulder. The Niagara logo is a Bull Terrier (modelled after former team part-owner Don Cherry's famous dog, "Blue") playing hockey in hockey gear. The team wears red and black CCM gloves and CCM helmets (black or white, depending upon their jersey colour).
The Gatorade Garden City Complex, formerly known as the Garden City Arena and the Jack Gatecliff arena, is a publicly owned and operated facility and is the main arena in St. Catharines. It is located at 8 Gale Crescent and features two ice surfaces (the Rex Stimers arena and the Jack Gatecliff arena). The IceDogs play in the Jack Gatecliff Arena of the complex. The arena's capacity is 3,145 including standing room, making it smaller than most CHL arenas. With an ice surface of 190 x 85 feet, its dimensions are also smaller than the typical CHL ice surface. It is commonly referred to by fans as 'the Jack.'
The original arena was built in 1932 and became the oldest arena currently used in the CHL following the Windsor Spitfires move to the WFCU Centre in 2008–09. It was previously used by the St. Catharines Teepees, St. Catharines Black Hawks, St. Catharines Fincups and the St. Catharines Saints and is also the home to the St. Catharines Jr. B Falcons. Renovated in 1996, it was named after local sportswriter Jack Gatecliff. The Jack Gatecliff Arena name has now been applied to the pad that the IceDogs play on, while the name of the facility itself was changed on September 19, 2007. The IceDogs typically play home games on either Thursday or Saturday nights, while the Falcons play their home games on Friday nights.
On March 1, 2009, the Niagara IceDogs hosted a home game at Niagara Falls Memorial Arena in nearby Niagara Falls, Ontario. The arena, slated to close in 2010, was the former home to both the Niagara Falls Flyers and the Niagara Falls Thunder. The game was billed as the last OHL game in the arena. The announced crowd of 3,167 was the largest home crowd in franchise history.