EVANSVILLE, IN – The long and at times strange road that started back in November between the Evansville IceMen and the City of Evansville reached what appears to be a conclusion yesterday afternoon. In a press conference, the Mayor of Owensboro and IceMen owner Ron Geary shared excitement about the team moving to Owensboro to play at the Sportscenter.
Some of the details were made available about the deal during the press conference. The Sportscenter will be sold to Ron Geary for $1 and by all accounts he is buying a “fixer upper.” The Mayor of Owensboro mentioned a new roof that needs put on the building, seating capacity will be expanded to over 7,000 and there’s the minor detail of the inside floor not currently being large enough to hold an ECHL hockey rink. The total cost of the renovation is expected to be between 4 and 6 million dollars.
Tristatehomepage.com reported that IceMen owner Ron Geary stated “he has verbal approval to play at the Sportscenter” from the ECHL.
This ends a very rocky negotiation with the City of Evansville and moves all the pieces forward in what is probably the best possible way.
The IceMen Organization
The team and all of the employees will survive. This is a significant victory for not only the ECHL, but all of the hard working folks that are employed by the team. Additionally, any IceMen employee that is local will not have any sort of relocation in order to stay with the team.
There are many great people that work within the organization and this deal allows all of them a collective sigh of relief. I’m assuming, independent of needing a new business card for an address change, there will be no change in their roles moving forward.
The City of Evansville
The Mayor of Evansville has stated on numerous instances that he intends to have hockey at the Ford Center with or without the IceMen. Now one of those options is off the table and the City can move forward with whatever the best scenario is for Evansville. A source within the City has told me that there is healthy interest from leagues and teams to play in Evansville at the Ford Center.
Of course no details are being leaked what those teams and leagues may be. If the IceMen move to Owensboro is approved by the ECHL, Evansville would not be allowed to have an ECHL team. The two teams would be geographically too close and that is not permitted.
Evansville residents that want to see professional hockey should still have an option in the fall of 2016.
I’ve seen lots of social media about the team moving to Owensboro and most seem to have a sense of betrayal and anger. That aside, if people choose to stay IceMen fans, Owensboro is a reasonable drive to still follow their hockey team.
The team is only a half hour away in regular driving conditions and for anyone in a larger metropolis, that might be their average commute to work. To hear the team is staying that close to a casual observer, that should feel like a victory for people that want to stick with IceMen hockey.
I can’t speak for IceMen fans on a whole, but I believe the majority wished this would end with the IceMen staying in Evansville. Seeing Ron Geary and the Owensboro Mayor shaking hands felt like an act of war on the fandom. In practicality, if the team wasn’t going to stay in Evansville, this was realistically the next best scenario.
This is the end of the story and everyone can now move forward with their lives. Right? Right?? No, the Evansville IceMen Facebook page dropped this on Tuesday night.
Now the story snatches defeat from the jaws of the happiest ending it was going to have.
To call this asinine feels like it does an injustice to the word asinine. I won’t speculate why the team social media would post such a thing, although I have a theory relating to ticket sales for the remainder of the season.
IceMen owner Ron Geary was asked multiple times about moving the team during an interview when he stated the team was at an impasse with Evansville. He wouldn’t say “I feel I have no choice, so yes I’m moving the team.” Following in that tradition of refusing to commit to anything, the team social media won’t commit to a deal they were just on television appearing to be happy with.
In response to the IceMen flip/flop the Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke stated all offers made to the IceMen are off the table.
I reached out to the IceMen for comment about the social media post and at this time have not heard back. The IceMen organization is always welcome to share comment or thoughts at The Sin Bin.
I asked IceMen fans for some thoughts in this emotional time. I have included some of the responses:
Katie Tomas: “I’m sad, disheartened and disappointed. I won’t be taking my 2 seats to Owensboro. I will finish out this season, because the players deserve it. End of story.”
Darrell echoed that sentiment and added hope for the new league…
Darrell Dale: “This will not effect my decision to attend any of the remaining games
I/We support the players and all associated with the Icemen organization beside the owner whom unfortunately has betrayed many
I hope all those involved find a way to bring an AHL team to Evansville.”
Drew shared a very heartfelt post:
Drew Campbell: “Don’t really know how to put my thoughts into words. I’d been bracing myself in the event that this would actually happen. The past 8 years have been some of the best in my life and hockey was a large part of that. I’ve been through so many life changing events the past few years and hockey was the one constant. All the Wooo’s, the You sucks, the arguments over goal songs, arguments over great guys equaling great hockey players, tragedies, drama, making family, friends, rivals, and just overall growing a community of passionate hockey fans was part of what was so great about being an IceMen fan.
Watching that get ripped away from me is a pain I can’t describe. It’s like a giant piece of my heart and soul has been ripped out. Hockey wasn’t just something my wife and I liked to enjoy together, it’s part of who I was. Most everyone I know always wanted to ask me about the IceMen. How many fans do they have, when do they play again, how are they this year, etc. I loved talking about this team every second I could get. I remember after attending 10 or so games being in that Swonder board room with complete strangers Michael Shockley, Amanda Johnson Shockley, Dixie Jack Halber, and Steven Halber to talk about forming a booster club and what we could do to help promote and aid the team. Ever since that moment I have been 100% dedicated to this team and organization. It honestly feels like I’ve been stabbed in the back. I’m angry, disgusted, and heart broken at the same time. Is there going to be hockey in the Ford? Who knows. What I do know is it won’t be the IceMen hockey I’ve grown to love.
To all of the IceMen staff and players past present: thank you for everything these past 8 years. It was truly a fantastic ride. I never though I’d have to envision life without hockey and seeing what this organization was able to accomplish in these 8 short years was nothing short of incredible.
To all of my fellow maniacs: I’ve had ups and downs with probably almost all of you at some point or another. But that’s what was truly great about this fan base. We went through so many trials by fire together. I wouldn’t trade a single second of any of it and will remember all of those moments with great fondness. Every single interaction I’ve had over the years with all of you have helped me grow as a man and develop character. For that I will always be grateful.
To Ron Geary and the City of Evansville: Congratulations you’ve won.”