WICHITA, KS – As part of the ECHL’s sentinel event of the 2015-16 regular season, Hockey Heritage Week, the league’s governors took time out to discuss the state of the league heading into next season.
There are atleast three issues which needed to be discussed at the meetings.
The first was to vote on a proposed move of the Evansville IceMen to Owensboro, KY. The move comes after the City of Evansville and IceMen owner Ron Geary could not agree on a new lease structure that is amenable to both sides. Geary and Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne announced the move January 19, but that was subject to 75% approval (21 of 28) by the board of governors.
Geary purchased the Owensboro Sportscenter for $1 and will turn the space into a 7,200 seat arena, but there is quite a bit of doubt on if the IceMen will open the 2016-17 season at home. Payne told Evansville Eyewitness News’ Brad Byrd that he hopes the renovations will be done by the end of the year, but did not give a firm date of when the changes will begin. Currently, the Sportscenter is home to two basketball teams and games are scheduled there into April. If the move is approved, there is a high likelihood the IceMen — or whatever name they will be — will be forced to play atleast the first two months of the regular season on the road.
The next issue is in Brampton, where it appears the Beast are on thin ice. You may remember Beast brass approached the Brampton City Council on January 20, asking for the city’s help in offsetting the franchise’s projected loss of $1.5 million dollars this season, purchasing the Powerade Centre from it’s owner Realstar, and considering a more team-friendly lease agreement.
Beast General Manager Cary Kaplan says the league has given him until March 10 to figure out their plan for next season. Kaplan has said if the team does not get help, they would not operate next season at Powerade Centre in Brampton.
Finally, the Board of Governors took up an application for expansion for a possible franchise in Worcester, MA. The city has been without hockey since the AHL Sharks moved west at the conclusion of last season.
While the results of the Board’s vote is not known, Cliff Rucker, owner of the prospective franchise, scheduled a news conference for Monday. At the time of this writing, the Worcester Telegram reports that news conference has not been called off. The Telegram also reports that at this news conference, Rucker would announce who will run the team’s hockey operations.
Assuming the Beast stay and Worcester joins the ECHL, that would bring the total number of teams to 29, one short of the league-imposed cap of 30 teams.
Stay with The Sin Bin for more on all of these stories.