It only took one weekend and only one game, but the 2014-15 season already brings up minor league hockey’s first exit as the Southwestern Pennsylvania Magic have dropped out of the Federal Hockey League, but worry not– as the Steel City Warriors will take their place….literally.
However, even before the season– it seems that the SWPA Magic were in trouble, despite coming into the FHL in late June of this year. According to the Watertown, New York’s WWNY, both the Magic and the other new FHL team, the Berkshire Battalion, told the FHL that they were in trouble financially and needed help from the other four member teams in order to actually take the ice for the first weekend of the season. Amazingly enough, Berkshire beat SWPA 10-2 last weekend.
Even with the Magic gone, there was one person quick to stand up to the task to take over the schedule and all the fun stuff that comes with a team– Annice Reaves, the president of Sticks and Stilettos Hockey, which from what I can grasp from Reaves’ Twitter profile, is a scouting agency looking to represent players– or in this case, to bring players to the Warriors hockey club. Reaves seems to be having an overhaul of the team, as they are holding tryouts, getting a new staff together, and making sure they can ice the best team. Reaves is even relocating herself to the Belle Vernon, PA area to be more hands-on and to see her investment first-hand rather than let others do the ground work. Reaves comes from a very business savvy family, as her family owns Cecil’s Texas Style BBQ, which is a staple in the Orlando, Florida area for over 20 years.
While the Warriors are now, for all intents and purposes, safe– the fact that two of the new teams were in trouble before the season began can’t be good for the FHL in what they want to achieve as a Single-A hockey entity. While Berkshire has played only one game and had a dominating win, the fact that they may not see the rest of the 50+ game schedule through has to be alarming to not only the league, but the member teams, as well. One has to wonder whether or not the teams or area can actually withstand the ideal of minor league hockey or if these teams have to go a different route.
One idea could be making the FHL into a Junior Hockey league, as the trend in the old Central Hockey League seemed to be that teams who couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with the high expense of play professional players, they would just drop down to any number of junior leagues in that area– including the two highest tiers in the USHL and NAHL– and be successful as a franchise in that vain. However, the United States Premier Hockey League seems to have enough teams in that area, which could cause little chance for those teams in the FHL to get membership to carry on their team name legacy, though it seems that maybe Danbury could sneak in there, while Dayton and Danville could go in to a NAHL situation for themselves.
Of course, that’s not the goal for these teams– they want to be professional teams, they want to have professional crowds, and they want to be able to make a name for themselves in spite of the odds thrown against them. With one team going down in the first weekend, another rumored to have trouble, and just a history of coming up short– the revitalization of an area with a team, no matter how driven the new owner is, won’t make the past ghosts look away from the shortcomings of the FHL. For the league, owners, players, and fans sake– here’s hoping this is the last bump in the road for a while; but I wouldn’t put big money on it.