The next step in the transition from the IceMen to the as yet unnamed SPHL franchise in Evansville was announced yesterday. Everyone said the right things about hockey in Evansville and the SPHL. By all accounts it was a successful press conference. It was a win. Highlights, video and notes from the announcement are available here.
Mike Hall appears to be the type of guy every team would want to be their owner. He’s passionate about the game of hockey, intelligent and rooted in the community. I had two different occasions to speak with Mike at the press conference and I caught the impression he’d be more comfortable sitting in the stands talking hockey than he would in front of a row of cameras. That’s not a bad thing. I also had a great conversation with Randy Hall (Mike’s brother) prior to the press conference and the excitement and support permeates throughout the family.
For all of the buzz surrounding yesterday’s announcement, the real work begins today for the Evansville “True Grit” (patent pending, yes I’m using this avenue to launch my vote for the team name). Building a successful minor league franchise takes the right amount of determination, great people in key positions and some luck. Only after executing the hiring of the right personnel, a successful PR campaign and budgeting for the monumental task of not losing money can the focus then turn to creating a successful on ice product.
At that point, the “True Grit” are one of two expansion teams this season. Announcing your existence in February and playing your first game in October is a short span to accomplish a lot. For those that don’t remember the growing pains of the early IceMen days, a more recent example is happening in Evansville right now. The NA3HL Evansville Thunderbolts are in their first season and experiencing many of the same issues most teams do their first year.
I want to clarify, I am not issuing a death sentence on a team that was just announced yesterday. In fact, I am hoping for just the opposite. I want this team to be successful not only for Evansville but for the bonding I share with my own family at hockey games. What I am suggesting is that people check their expectations out of the gate. Let this unfold and let the team grow and develop as it happens. The things that don’t go smoothly aren’t indicative of demise and the victories don’t make anyone “the best ever”.
Be excited about a fresh start for hockey in Evansville. You should be. For all the negativity that has surrounded hockey fans in Evansville the last few months, this is a breath of fresh air. Just remember, it’s a journey and the “True Grit” won’t be starting at the finish line.
The Sin Bin will continue to update everyone as more news becomes available on the franchise.