The NAHL is without a doubt one of the top leagues in the world for player development. While some may balk at my opinion, the NAHL consistently produces talent that moves on to the highest levels of hockey year after year. It is arguably one of the top ten development leagues in the world.
The NAHL though is no place for those would be owners who are afraid to feel some pain financially in order to own a team.
The Philadelphia Rebels, once the Aston Rebels, once the Rio Grande Killer Bee’s, and once the Wenatchee Wild, are again on the move. This time they will move to Jamestown New York.
An 8 year deal was agreed to with Northwest (Jamestown) Savings Bank Ice arena and announced this week. An 8 year deal is notable because this franchise has not lasted more than a few years in any one location.
The location of Jamestown New York is also notable because it is the former home of the Jamestown Ironmen, an NAHL team that folded in 2013. A team that folded after loosing in the Championship round and having a successful season. A team that was also previously relocated several times.
Prior to that it was home to the Jamestown Jets, and the Jamestown Vikings. Most recently is was home to the Southern Tier Express in the NA3HL and they have moved to a new arena and switched leagues in the process. Hockey is not new to Jamestown.
Jamestown New York is a quiet little town with a beautiful arena in the middle of nowhere in South Western New York.
Its also town that has already proven incapable of supporting an NAHL franchise once, and it will likely prove it in short order once again.
The most basic demographic profiling shows the median income in Jamestown is half of what it is in the rest of New York.
The number of new homes being constructed has steadily declined for the last decade. Unemployment is and has consistently been near 6%.
Seven years ago, I advised against the NAHL’s relocation of the Ironmen from Detroit to Jamestown. The reasons I advised against that move were much more detailed than those presented here. Those reasons, and the basis for that advice against relocation to Jamestown are in place today and I would advise against this move again.
Though the arena is almost ideal for an NAHL franchise, the community, and surrounding communities are so far below ideal that this is clearly a franchise who did not do a complete study and spend enough time in the region.
The Rebels were good on the ice last year. Very solid, and will provide a great entertainment product. They will sell tickets initially, and they will get some corporate support. It will be no different than all the other teams that have come before them, going back as far as fifteen years.
The honeymoon will wear off, the newness will wear off, and it will once again prove to be not financially sustainable. There are so many reasons for this that I could easily spend days and pages writing about it.
While I am very happy that the Rebels found a temporary new home and will continue to provide NAHL opportunity for players. I fear it will once again be short lived.
Once again, we will see that an arena vacancy does not mean the arena is meant to have a team. An arena vacancy really means there are reasons for the arena being vacant.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher