When it comes to the hockey business, and the success or failure of a franchise, nothing is more important than the economic health of the community you place the franchise.
While Port Huron Michigan has a wealth of hockey tradition, it certainly did not have the disposable income to support a winning franchise.
It was roughly three months ago when McMorran Arena informed team owner Maribeth Hayes that they were looking to bring in a USHL franchise and that her team would be the odd man out. This information was provided with only a week before the NAHL’s winter meetings in Troy Michigan.
The organization immediately began a search for a new arena that would offer more stability and within two weeks had narrowed the field down to three locations.
Within short order it became apparent that Connellsville was far and away the best option for relocation.
The advantages were easy to see. Connellsville is not only a great location, but has a great arena. The Ice Mine seats 4000 and offers another gateway city to the NAHL’s eastern expansion. Players will have a newly constructed dressing room, player lounge and workout area on site. Team offices, and ticket sales will also be on site.
The lease is perhaps the best in the NAHL, and Johnstown now has a travel partner. This also allows the NAHL North Division to stay the same.
With the move, Head Coach Michael Gershon gets just a little closer to his New Jersey home. That move is expected to begin today as the moving truck is packed and begins the trek to Connellsville.
A lot of work has already been done in Connellsville to make ready. Thirty billet families have already signed up and been cleared. A waiting list of corporate sponsorships has been developed, and season ticket sales are expected to be brisk from day one.
A press conference in Connellsville is being tentatively scheduled for Friday as well as a meet and greet with fans.
TJHN will update this story as more information becomes available.