Shady Hockey Returns To Danbury
Danbury Ice Arena
The Danbury Ice Arena, the former home of the UHL's Danbury Trashers (and if you don't know what happened to them, you can click here and start reading), may be back in the pro hockey business this season-- albeit with a team in the semi-pro North Eastern Hockey League, a shady league with a dubious track record.
From today's Danbury News-Times:
Apparently there won't be much of a hiatus in professional hockey for Danbury.
The New England Stars were accepted into the North Eastern Hockey League on Tuesday and the franchise will begin playing in the 2006-07 season.
"It's expected to fill the hockey void for the people in the city of Danbury," said Stephan Seeger, the Stars' general manager.
Much of that void was created after the Danbury Trashers suspended operations in June after just two seasons in the United Hockey League.
Seeger, who declined to name the Stars' owners, said the management group is based out of the Stamford, Greenwich and New Canaan area.
Seeger said the group was looking to bring another professional hockey team to Connecticut and Danbury became the logical town after the Trashers ceased operations.
The Stars are scheduled to play a shortened 10-game home schedule at the Danbury Ice Arena for the 2006-07 season, which runs November through April. After the league re-evaluates the franchise at the end of the season, a full schedule of home games likely will be played for the 2007-08 season.
Some fans, however, are a little doubtful about the longevity of the newly formed four-team NEHL.
"A lot of the fans that I've talked to are very skeptical about this new league," said Danbury resident Peter Valenzon, who regularly attended Trashers games the past two seasons. "It seems a little unstable, but I'll come to check it out when they come here."
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the North Eastern Hockey League (which I suppose is just about everybody), the league was founded by would-be hockey player and entrepreneur Jim Cashman. Cashman, who has played in a handful of games-- literally seven or eight-- in various low-level minor pro leagues like the WPHL and CHL back in the 90's, not only runs the NEHL but is also the coach and team captain of one of its teams.
The NEHL has already sputtered through one financially troubled season, in '03-'04, then remained dormant in '04-'05 before attempting to regroup for the '05-'06 season as the Continental Professional Hockey League, to no avail (the season was cancelled after 6 games).
Although the league promotes itself as "A-level minor league hockey", it's really a semi-pro, "weekend only" league, featuring 16-man rosters stocked with marginal players. I followed the league for a little bit during their first season, mostly because the league had a team from Connecticut (in name only, it turned out), and the game scores were typically of the 13-9, 11-10, double-digit variety.
Here's how the NEHL describes itself on its own web site:
The North Eastern Hockey League is a high scoring, fast paced league using NHL rules with a few variations. In the first season, games averaged 15 goals per game between both teams. The NEHL is based on affordability for both the owner and the fans.
Players in the NEHL make between $30 and $100 per game depending on the team/market/owner. A great benefit to the NEHL for players is that they can work on their day-to-day jobs and still spend quality time with their family. With games on weekends only, players have plenty of time with family and their non-hockey jobs.
The "League Mission", as stated on their web site, is to provide "high quality entertainment that is very family affordable for the fans of each city. With ticket prices between $8 and $12 we feel this is very inexpensive and affordable to any family." With college and high school hockey available around the state, providing more-interesting hockey for much less, or even free, what's the point?
Here's how one commenter on the Danbury News-Times web site described the league (completely unverified, of course, but still funny):
This league is a joke, and the owner of the league is a crook. He has had 2 other leagues that folded, and owes money to former players. Let me ask you this: whatever happened to the Connecticut Cougars of this league? You might also ask him what happened to his Gulf Coast Hockey League.
One obvious question that comes to mind after reading the News-Times article is, why would the New England Stars GM decline to name who the team's owners are?
"We're here to provide fun, safe, affordable entertainment for the families in Danbury, and we hope that they'll come out with their kids to the games and support us."
"Who do you work for?"
"Um, I'd rather not say."
Good luck, Danbury.