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Hockey at Chevy remains in limbo



Published: Thu, March 26, 2009 @ 12:09 a.m.

photo

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams

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Bruce Zoldan

Officials, arena director meet with chief of USHL

Staff REPORT

YOUNGSTOWN — A year without hockey at the Chevy Centre?

“We’d be fine,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “It’s not our preference, but it wouldn’t hurt us.”

There have been no final decisions about the next hockey team to play at the center. Two forerunners — the United States Hockey League and the ECHL — are being evaluated by the city.

No hockey for the 2009-10 season would free many dates for other events, but the center wouldn’t be able to fill all of them, Ryan said.

“It’s a viable option,” said Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams of a hockey-free year.

“We don’t want to have hockey just for the sake of hockey.”

However, hockey has brought a fan base to the Mahoning Valley, and it’s growing, said Bruce Zoldan, owner of the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, the amateur hockey team that played its home games at the center.

“Missing a season of hockey would be a step back,” he said.

Zoldan is promoting a USHL team to play its home games next season at the Chevy Centre. The USHL is a high- level tier one amateur league with 12 teams.

Skip Prince, commissioner of the USHL, took his first tour of the Chevy Centre and met with city officials, Ryan and Zoldan on Wednesday.

“You’ve got a beautiful facility,” Prince said of the center.

“And you’ve got a strong hockey and sports marketplace, with sponsors and advertisers and fans,” he said.

The North American Hockey League’s U.S. National Team, which is based in Ann Arbor, Mich., recently committed to joining the USHL for its next season, Zoldan said.

If Youngstown gets a team, it and Team USA would become part of a seven-team Eastern Division in the USHL, Zoldan said.

“We’re the top quality [amateur] hockey product available,” Prince said.

“The very best players in the United States and North America are coming to this league to play,” he said.

To put things into perspective in terms of the league’s level of play, Zoldan compared it to college football.

“Is there a demand to see Ohio State football?” he asked rhetorically. “The USHL is hockey on that level.”

“Half the teams have sellout crowds every night, and the other half have more than 2,000 [in attendance],” Zoldan said, predicting that a team here would likely draw crowds of about 3,000 a game.

Williams said he gained a greater knowledge of the talent the USHL would bring to the area during Wednesday’s meeting.

“There is a case to be made and a need to further evaluate this league playing in the Valley,” Williams said.

The city has also discussed the potential relocation to Youngstown of a professional team in the ECHL, another high-level minor league, but Williams said again nothing has been decided.

Factors that are being considered include entertainment value, fans, supporters and sponsors, Williams said.

“We don’t want to make a decision haphazardly and end up with a bad situation,” he said.


Comments

1valleyred(1079 comments)posted 5 years ago

ECHL-YES
USHL-HELL NO

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2boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 5 years ago

WE WANT BIG MACS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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3iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 5 years ago

this is just rediculous! heres my opinion on hockey!

ECHL team - Season ticket holder

USHL team - 2 games MAYBE!

im pretty sure a lot of people feel this way and dont want to pay 10 bucks to see high school kids bump into each other on skates! 3,000 people to see that crap? yeah right! 3,500 or more to see a team in the ECHL? im willing to bet on it!

I keep searching around on the web looking for the ECHL team that might move here...any ideas? im thinking MAYBE the phoenix roadrunners?

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4hockeyjess(10 comments)posted 5 years ago

ECHL - Yes, I would once again be a season ticket holder

USHL - No, if I wanted to see college hockey, I'd watch YSU. The Phantoms games are not nearly as exciting as the CHL games were/are, I tried to make do with them but no dice. I'd rather sit home.

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5paul21045(28 comments)posted 5 years ago

Last ECHL that wanted to move here was scared off when the Vindicator prematurely printed their name ---Wheeling revealed by David Skolnick---hope they do not play into the hands of those who want junior hockey at CHevy Centre by scaring off another ECHL team!

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6valleyred(1079 comments)posted 5 years ago

I was not a season ticket holder for the Steelhounds, but I did attend 15 games in their final season. If an ECHL team were brought here, I'd buy season tix in a heartbeat!

I want QUALITY hockey, not just any old hockey!

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7iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 5 years ago

i really think the ECHL team is the way to go. not only would we have our own ticket sales from our own team but please dont forget how close wheeling, johnstown and even cincy are. people on other websites have already said they would love to travel and see their teams play ours in our building! Once again travel costs come into play for the USHL team with the closest going to be the USA michigan team. it makes sense but not everything that happens makes sense i guess.

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8dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 5 years ago

I think all you naysayers should do a little more research before you make your decision. If the ECHL is so great why did 3 teams fold this year in the middle of the season? Why is another team wanting to move here if they are doing so good? Do we want another team that will be here for three years and leave? The USHL is the top junior league in the country. I bet that any USHL team could compete with the "pros" in the ECHL. The USHL has kids that go right to the pros where the ECHL has mediocre 4th line NHLers who are playing their last hockey before they retire. Go on USHL.com as do some homework and you will see this is the way to go. That is unless you know nothing about hockey and want to get drunk while watching fat old guys fight only to be traded after being here for a week. If you like the movie Slapshot then the ECHL is for you but if you are a true fan the USHL is the wave of the future. Be careful what you wish for!!!

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9msweetwood(160 comments)posted 5 years ago

(From my post on another thread)

I am confused by a line of reasoning, so please illuminate me.

Just about every sport The Vindicator covers from prep football to YSU basketball to even the Scrappers features athletes in the same 16-20 year old age group that both the Phantoms and the USHL feature (yes, there are some athletes in their early 20's in college sports and minor league baseball).

And these events often play to packed houses.

Yet, why does it seem when it comes to hockey, some are quick to dismiss them as mere "high schoolers" or, in one case, "kids?" It seems as if a double standard is at play here.

First, it is not accurate. There are as many at the USHL level NOT of high school age as there are who still are. Secondly, I rarely see, say, a Ohio State player criticized because he or she is "only" 19 or 20 or referred to as a "kid."

It seems like there is plenty of support in the Valley for other athletes in the 16-20 age group. Why is hockey singled out differently? Or, is it?

Set me straight!

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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10jrolley325(776 comments)posted 5 years ago

the ECHL is the best option in my opinion....i still think the wheeling nailers are the team that they won't mention now. they play in 10000 year old wesbanco arena. i think their owners just wanted to put the wheeling fans at ease, because if the fans knew that they were in a lame duck year, nobody would even show up at all.

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11iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 5 years ago

i really have no clue who the echl team would be. i know it can change real fast but the nailers are selling season tickets. i called the phoenix roadrunners and one of their reps told me they are folding this year and looking for someone to buy the team so i doubt its them. the nailers would be cool though. youngstown sure is closer to pitt then wheeling so there will probably be a better following then down in wheeling. who knows?

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12JeffLebowski(953 comments)posted 5 years ago

I had no idea those that operate the Chevy Centre did so from a position of such abundance...“We’d be fine,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “It’s not our preference, but it wouldn’t hurt us.”

That doesn't make sense to me.

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13jrolley325(776 comments)posted 5 years ago

Mr. Sweetwood, my writing skills are kind of limited so I'll try to get my two cents in as best as I can.

I'm as big of a hockey fan as anyone on here, but I think the lack of support for these "kids" playing hockey in the area is because these players are not from here. I think people find it hard to connect with a team full of players from Michigan, New York, Minnesota, Canada, etc.

It is easy to support the young football/basketball players in this area. They are our neighbors down the street. We work with their parents. They go to the same school we did. Youth hockey is hard to get into unless you have the $$$ to buy the super expensive equipment. Sidney Crosby helped by donating a big sum of money (I forget how much exactly) to youth hockey around the Pittsburgh area (Boardman included) and kids were able to get equipment that they otherwise couldn't afford.

It is easy to support the Scrappers. The Cleveland Indians have had the support of northeast Ohio since 1100 B.C. They will be around forever.

I feel that an ECHL team affiliated with the Penguins would be ideal. Pittsburgh is only an hour away. Most of the hockey fans here follow and support the Pens. I know, the Blue Jackets play in Columbus, but they are just NOW building a big fanbase, as the Penguins sell out each and every game and follow their farm teams almost just as much.

It takes time. Get more local hockey players, and the support will grow.

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14dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 5 years ago

It's hard to get more local hockey players if they have no mentors to follow. If you go to the Ice Zone you will always see Phantom players there. They practice and when they are done thet help with youth programs like 3 on 3 and learn to play hockey as well as skills clinics. They are living examples of young kids that are successful in hockey and believe me the youth players look at these kids like they are stars. FYI the Steelhounds and any ECHL team would not practice at the Ice Zone so how would the average youth player receive any motivation from them. If the USHL comes or even if the current Phantoms stay you will see a group of local talent in the next few years without a doubt. The USHL is the quickest, best and cheapest way to grow hockey in this town period!!

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15msweetwood(160 comments)posted 5 years ago

Thanks for the insight, Jrolley! You make some good points and I appreciate the effort (and your typing skills are way better than most!). I still get the feeling we risk treating a USHL team of athletes from elsewhere one way and the YSU/Buckeyes/Scrappers athletes from elsewhere another way. Do you think that maybe after five or 10 or 3,109 years, a USHL team of athletes from elsewhere would gain some credibility and fandom? Or is it just not worth the effort given the limited number of die-hard hockey fans?

Mark Sweetwood
Managing Editor

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16jrolley325(776 comments)posted 5 years ago

There needs to be at least a few local hockey players to make it big for the support to grow. That's just the mentality of this area. I'm not saying I agree with it, but it's just the way it is.

I guarantee that if Kelly Pavlik hadn't done what he did, 95% of the people in this area could care less who the next contender for the middleweight title is.

Whatever happens, those in charge need to be patient. If attendance isn't as high as they hope in the first few seasons, they shouldn't fold up shop and call it quits.

The ECHL has the greater chance of bringing in outside revenue. I don't think fans in other cities would be willing to travel to Youngstown to see amateur hockey. Players in the ECHL have a far greater chance to making it to the NHL than the USHL.

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17Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 5 years ago

I disagree that fans would not be willing to travel here. This would be the only local USHL team in the area. Most youth hockey players hope to play in the USHL to be drafted and/or get a scholarship. I have spoken to a couple of players in different organizations who want to come to see games in the USHL. The team would draw from the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other surrounding areas. An ECHL team would not have a consistant draw. They may draw some from other towns when we play their nearest rival but that would be it. Also, the parents of the USHL players would be coming in often to see their sons play.

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18houndsfan(68 comments)posted 5 years ago

Last year I bought 4 season tickets, only needing 2, and brought new people to a lot of games. I brought over 35 people to the Chevy Centre and only 2 of those people bought tickets to come to another game. Not a very good %. This just tells me how difficult it is to sell hockey in Y-Town.

So, if people want pro hockey, then you- the fans- will have to find a way to get people to the Chevy Centre. A small marketing team will need help from the 2000 or so hard core hockey fans in the area.

Many people throw blame around on why we lost our hockey team in the first place. I blame us -the fans. We didn't do enough to promote the team in the community. Buying tickets is only one way to show your support.

So I hope no matter what hockey comes to Y-Town, people step up and promote it as fans so it can be successful for years to come.

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19gmann415(268 comments)posted 5 years ago

hockey at the TRAFFICANT CENTRE anyone. thank you jim for fighting for this centre for us to watch all of our favorite sports and plays. THANK YOU

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