MWJHL To Have At Least Six Go Dark

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MWJHL To Have At Least Six Go Dark August 31, 2012 10:34 AM

******Update*****

Information late this morning has Kankakee, Ironwood, Traverse City, Cincinatti, Erie PA, and at least one other team going dark. Conflicting reports from multiple sources leave the MWJHL situation unclear at this time. One source has said that a conference call for scheduling took place last night and ran until the early morning hours. Another source has stated at least one league official has resigned.

Players signed to teams going dark are being contacted today by the remaining teams in the hope of strengthening the remaining teams numbers. One source stated that Ironwood sent its players to Rhinelander and that they will be able to play this season. Other sources have indicated that some teams do not have enough players to play if the puck were dropped today, but that they were close to having enough and were allowed to continue to build their team and move forward.

We will continue to update this story as it develops.

*****End Update*****

Sources within the Mid West Junior Hockey League have informed TJHN that the league has, or is in the process of, forcing no less than six and as many as eight teams into dormancy for the 2012-2013 season.

The Kankakee Kingfish were the first to go, although most would say they never started. TJHN has learned that there was no ice rental agreement in place for the Kingfish until just recently. Players were not recruited and we were unable to find any information on a coach ever being hired. Unfortunately this is the second time this has happened to this ownership group.

The Traverse City Cohos are also said to be one of the teams going dark. Several sources have reported that Head Coach Scott Gardiner was only able to recruit seven players for the team. The departure of the Cohos is a tremendous blow for Centre Ice Arena in Traverse City as they lost the NAHL’s North Stars this spring.

The Great Lakes Lightning are also a team being talked about as going dark. Recruiting is said to be the issue for this team as well. Although it is unclear at this time, other teams mentioned as potentially going dark are the Rhinelander Street Cats, Lake Erie Steelheads, and the NWO Growl.

A reduction from sixteen teams would seem like a wise move for the start up league. Sixteen teams was a far too aggressive plan, and no one out side of the MWJHL ever believed it was possible.

The issue has been player supply. The demand for the product was highly over valued, and there was not enough work done to secure players by teams.

Whether it is AAU or USA Hockey, Tier III programs that do not have enough players by August 31st, simply didn’t do the work over the summer. They have no one to blame but themselves. The Field of Dreams concept of announcing your team and expecting people will just show up has been tried far too many times. The results of that kind of effort have always been consistent and produce negative results.

Unfortunately some of the teams said to be going dark this year were probably some of the more financially stable teams in the league. Dropping teams early on, or during the season is not an uncommon thing for any league, even some of the best leagues have lost teams in this way. The problem for many start up teams is lack of funding to begin with. When teams are not prepared to spend a minimum of five to ten thousand dollars a season on scouting and recruiting, they typically will not have enough players to start the season.

The inability to roster a minimum of 20 players by September 1st, will impact every team financially for the remainder of the season. Even if teams are able to add players throughout the season, those player fees are prorated for the length of time left in the season. This creates budget shortfalls that many owners are not prepared for. If owners are using player money before the season starts, that money almost always runs out, or slows to a trickle by January. This leaves two months of funding that will have to come from the owners pockets, and many throughout history are not prepared for this.

The question looming is what does the MWJHL do in order to move forward?

Ownership finances must be checked. Teams going dark must return all money collected from players. Failure to do those two critical items will cripple the leagues ability to move forward this season and beyond.

How do teams prepare for the USA Hockey Tier III player raid? Some Tier III teams have been waiting for this to happen to the MWJHL to pick up players and fill their own rosters. The calls started taking place last night as this information spread. What happens when parents of players on the remaining teams get concerned about stability? Some players will leave the remaining teams.

Travel budget for remaining teams are now out the window. When the footprint becomes more spread out, travel costs rise in order to maintain the amount of games played. Are owners prepared for this?

Many more questions need to be answered, and the time to answer those questions is running out.

Written By: Joseph Kolodziej

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