What Happened: 

Monday afternoon, the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) announced that league President Jim Combs will be stepping down to pursue other opportunities. His final day will be November 30. Combs has been with the league since 2007, and the league’s president since before the start of the 2010-11 season.

“I am very thankful to have been part of the SPHL,” Combs said in a statement. “On my first day, I told our Board of Governors that we were going to become the leader in Single-A hockey, and through the efforts of our owners, players, coaches, officials, staff, and most importantly, our fans, I am proud to say that I am leaving the SPHL in just that position.”

What This Means: 

The SPHL will be looking for someone to fill the huge shoes left behind. Under Combs’ leadership, the SPHL went from a league known for it’s bench-clearing brawls, to one that is a part of the player development chain with the ECHL, American Hockey League, and National Hockey League.

Jim Combs will be leaving the SPHL front office at the end of November Photo Courtesy: SPHL

Also under Combs’ leadership, the SPHL led the way in bringing the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) shootout rules to North America, and enhanced the meaning of the regular-season by developing the pick-your-opponent “challenge round” format.

While all that was going on, the SPHL has remained affordable for families, fan-friendly, and has media/staff who are accessible at all times.

News Value: 

On a scale of 1-10 (one being not news-worthy, ten being major breaking news,) this is an eight. Monday’s announcement came from left field, especially considering Combs signed a four-year contract extension in August 2017.

Burning Questions: 

Does the SPHL’s second-in-command, Doug Price, get his chance at the helm? If we’ve come to learn anything while covering minor league hockey, it’s that the most obvious choice almost always doesn’t pan out.

What’s next for Combs? After having his name bandied as a possible replacement to outgoing ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna, one might think the ECHL is next for him.

What challenges still exist in the league that a fresh set of eyes can look at and tackle?

What can a new league president do to build on the Combs’ success?

We’ll discuss all those questions and more tonight on the “Inside the SPHL Podcast”! Join Matthew Harding, Mike Campos and the voice of the Evansville Thunderbolts, Tommy Pecoraro LIVE on The Sin Bin app starting at 8 pm Central time!

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