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Newfoundland Growlers won't finish the season as membership in ECHL terminated

The Newfoundland Growlers won't finish out the 2023-2024 season, marking the second time a Toronto Maple Leafs minor league affiliated team has left the province. 

With six games left on the schedule, the ECHL announced on Tuesday its board of governors voted to terminate the club's membership effective immediately "for failure to fulfil its obligations under the ECHL Bylaws."

In a statement posted on its website, the Growlers said team owners Deacon Sports and Entertainment couldn't finalize a sale of the franchise prior to the league-mandated April 2 deadline. The Trois-Rivières Lions, also owned by Deacon, was sold and will finish the season. 

"Due to unforeseen challenges, and while a discussion was put forth to salvage the future of both teams, only the continuation of the Trois-Rivières Lions was approved by the ECHL, and as a result, the ECHL Board of Governors has voted to terminate the league membership of the Newfoundland Growlers," reads the Growlers' statement. 

"We extend our heartfelt appreciation to our fans, sponsors, partners, staff, and the hundreds of players who have proudly represented the Growlers, whose unwavering resilience and support has been instrumental to our on-ice product."

ECHL commissioner Ryan Crelin wrote the league is "saddened to lose ECHL hockey in the Newfoundland market."

He said the league is "hopeful that hockey can return to the region for their dedicated and passionate fan base."

Growlers players with ECHL contracts will become unrestricted free agents. Those with AHL contracts are ineligible to finish out the ECHL season. 

The Growlers statement says refunds for remaining three home games will be automatically processed by the box office at the Mary Brown's Centre.