The franchise has just been sold to Canadian businessman James Waters, bringing much-needed financial stability to the club. But it also sees the exit of the legendary GM Sherry Bassin, the previous owner, and his greatest player in Connor McDavid.
Everything seemed to revolve around the Erie Otters this season, from top draft prospect Connor McDavid and OHL scoring champion Dylan Strome to the legal drama between the junior franchise and the Edmonton Oilers.
With the sale of the Otters to Canadian businessman James Waters, a brand-new chapter will begin in Pennsylvania and it will come with its own challenges. Specifically, who will not be returning to the franchise.
Sherry Bassin had been the owner of the Otters and was also the team’s GM. But as noted in an article on GoErie.com, the legendary hockey man will be stepping away at the age of 75.
Bassin is a favorite in the junior world thanks to his outsized personality and he also played a big role in developing McDavid, the Toronto-area phenom who joined the Otters a year early thanks to Hockey Canada’s “exceptional status” rule.
“My relationship with Sherry is great,” McDavid said during the OHL final. “He’s almost like a second father. He took me in when I was 15 years old. I had a lot of questions and he stuck with me. I love him and he’ll always be a part of my life.”
As Bassin noted in his open letter to the Erie fans, the city has been a part of him since he moved the franchise from Niagara Falls in 1996 and Waters was his first choice as a buyer for the team. The reported price tag for the Otters was $7.2 million and Bassin will come out ahead, even after paying off more than $5 million in debts – much of which is owed to the NHL’s Oilers. That nasty financial episode forced the Otters to declare bankruptcy this season in order to protect themselves, but the sale wipes the slate clean.
Of course, now the Otters will have to soldier on without McDavid as well, since the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft is a lock to join those same Edmonton Oilers. Luckily, the base that Bassin put together will give his successor a pretty decent squad to build off.
Strome, who was taken third overall by the Arizona Coyotes, will most likely be back, giving the team a dominating No. 1 center. His 129 points was tops in the OHL and tied for the best mark in the whole CHL. And while 2016 prospect Alex DeBrincat benefitted from having McDavid feed him pucks, there’s no reason to doubt the 50-goal scorer can weave similar magic with Strome if they are put together next year.
The Otters also return Toronto Maple Leafs second-rounder Travis Dermott, an excellent offensive defenseman, not to mention some pretty good candidates for overage duty and maturing young talents such as right winger Taylor Raddysh, who joined DeBrincat on Central Scouting’s 2016 draft watch list.
Bassin and McDavid never did win an OHL title in Erie, though they did make it to the final this year before getting ground down by Oshawa. But they both left an indelible mark on the city and its fans.