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USHL chief cites league’s top quality

Published: Thu, March 26, 2009 @ 12:06 a.m.

By Tom Williams

The United States Hockey League wants a franchise at the Chevrolet Centre this fall.

YOUNGSTOWN — The commissioner of the United States Hockey League believes the United States is producing more high-caliber hockey players than ever.

Skip Prince, the commissioner of the top amateur league in the country, says his league is prepared to grow to accommodate those players.

Wednesday, Prince visited the city to tour the Chevrolet Centre with Mahoning Valley Phantoms owner Bruce Zoldan, who wants to create a USHL team to play in the 4-year-old arena this fall.

Zoldan and Prince also met with city officials to promote their plan.

If Youngstown gets a team, it would be part of a seven-team division as the USHL expands to 14 franchises.

“We’ve never been larger than 12 before,” Prince said. “The reason is ... we didn’t [want to] sacrifice anything in the quality.

“We now recognize that the United States hockey pyramid has a top that is big enough to be able to sustain 14 or 16 teams,” Prince said. “I’m not sure you could have said that 10 years or five years ago.”

The U.S. National team, which plays in the Phantoms’ North American Hockey League, is joining the USHL in the fall.

Asked if the Mahoning Valley could support hockey enough for a team to draw 2,000-2,500 fans, Prince said, “I think you could do better than that.

“We recognize that the quality of [our] on-ice product at this point is the virtual equivalent of [Canada’s] major juniors,” Prince said. “Shift for shift, player for player, we are at that level. It’s taken a lot of people who have worked hard to get there.”

Like the Phantoms, the USHL use teen-age players with big dreams. Some USHL players get selected in the National Hockey League’s draft while many others earn scholarships to Division I colleges.

The Youngstown SteelHounds of the Central Hockey League were the arena’s main tenant from 2005-08. The CHL uses players ages 21 to their mid-30s.

Last June, the CHL booted the SteelHounds from the league, creating a vacancy that continues to nag the city as it struggles to pay the arena’s mortgage.

The SteelHounds averaged around 3,000 fans.

This season, Zoldan’s Phantoms played 25 games at the Chevrolet Centre. Attendance has been about 1,000 per game.

Zoldan believes fans would rather see players on their way to top careers.

Prince said the USHL is the solution.

“There is no forgiveness in this league for anything but the best quality in this game,” Prince said. “I think that’s what the fan base here and ownership here are looking for.”

Prince said Zoldan’s organization is well-prepared, “having looked already into the community of elite players.”

Prince downplayed an immediate deadline for a decision, saying plans already are in place for an expansion draft in May.

He added that the league is preparing a futures draft to reach out to more players.

“The draft has always been held in October,” Prince said. “We’re bringing it to May to let the 16-year-old hockey player know that not only are we here but we’re watching.

“It’s our perception at this point that we need to take care of America’s finest hockey players and the way to do that is to scout them, talk to them a lot earlier and a lot more often than they have been talked to,” Prince said.

A year ago, Columbus had a USHL franchise that struggled, playing in Nationwide Arena, the home of the NHL’s Blue Jackets. It folded.

Despite that, Prince believes that Ohio and Pennsylvania are “an area having a lot of hockey growth.”

“I’m a fan of hockey of every level so we won’t disparage any level of hockey,” Prince said. “What we are saying is that when you are elite , when you are the very best, which we believe we are, we’re just trying to be very careful to go to places where we can sustain that.

“We think Youngstown might be a good place for that,” Prince said.



1jowitwer(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

We Don't Need more High School Hockey!

Give us Pros. Why put in something that won't draw more than a couple thousand people? Pros have shown they can draws over 3000 with poor ownership, a bad league situation and poor arena management.

Tell Zoldan to put more seats in his Ice Zone if he wants another Kids Hockey Team.

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2pbpsean(4 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

This is always the first thing people that are clueless say, "It's High School Hockey". No it is not!

The USHL is where many future NHL players are drafted, therefore the quality of hockey is right on par with ANY minor league. PLUS, the players don't get paid, so the cost to run a team is cheaper and they become part of the community because they usually live with a host family.

Sorry that Herb ruined pro hockey for Youngstown and you are right that Youngstown drew pretty well under trying circumstances. But please don't put down the USHL just becuase you want the pros.

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3msweetwood(174 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I am confused by this 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 this 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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4valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

We need the ECHL. NO Junior Hockey!

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5Mr_Kia(5 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

How many of those "pros" have a future in the NHL? VERY FEW! You might see one or two enforcers or goalies move up from AA to the NHL, but no forwards or defensement because they simply lack the skills.

The CHL hasn't promoted 15 players to the NHL since they were founded in 1992. The USHL sees 15-20 kids a season drafted by NHL teams, and many more who are drafted after going to the NCAA. The USHL and NTDP (which will be in the USHL next season) had 12 players taken in the first 3 rounds of the draft each of the last two years. These aren't kids. These are REAL players with REAL futures in the game, not guys that need to move on with the rest of their lives.

How many Steelhounds can you name that have moved on? How many times have you watched an NHL game and seen a player that was a former SteelHound or CHLer? I'll bet you haven't.

What is the "bad league situation" of which you speak? It sure isn't worse than the CHL, where the SteelHounds' nearest opponent was in Memphis. The USHL team would have rivals in Ann Arbor, Chicago, and Indianapolis, with more possible through expansion. It sure isn't worse than the ECHL, which has seen two teams fold in the middle of this season with more folds anticipated this summer.

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6boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Is everyone aware that Coach Kaminski and almost half his team of ex Steelhounds are in the playoffs this year in another city and the only team ranked better than them is the Colorado Eagles? Way to go youngstown. Way to go. Someone knock some sense into these people and get us into the AHL. There we can get the closest thing to professional hockey that there is to offer.

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7iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months 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?

and another thing! how can zoldan say we as fans would rather see players on a USHL team? thats a load of crap! Its all about what Bruce wants and not what the true fans want!


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8ytownhockey(12 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

the truth is that yes the ushl has great palyers that get drafted into the nhl. but they are still young, and will move on if god willing they do get drafted and then a new class comes in. chl echl ihl ahl players are all adults that by houses wifes get jobs kids go to schools. they become part of your community. many do get traded or retire and go home but while they are here you see them out doing things in the community more. i love the phantoms and would excitedly go to ushl games if that is what happens, but a minor pro team will draw more on a consistent basis

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9ytownhockey(12 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

one other thing, you cant blame bruce zoldan, he wants what he thinks would best fit in his opinion and what would also make him some money. he is a businessman after all. heb washington you can blame all you want. he was a mistake since the beginning.

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10iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

i completely agree with you about washington being a mistake! he jumped in a league that he didn't know anything about! that was evident! making money in pro minor hockey in any level with maybe the exception of the AHL is extremely tough and rare. Breaking even is more of a goal for owner of these teams. you break even with attendance and i dont see that happening with a USHL team. maybe im wrong! and if they come i hope im wrong because youngstown doesn't need another bad thing happening to it. i dont want to pay that kind of money to see that level of play. like you said i want to see the guys that live and have families and are apart of our community.

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11Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Ytownhockey wrote"chl echl ihl ahl players are all adults that by houses wifes get jobs kids go to schools. they become part of your community."

The players would not buy houses as they are put up in apartments by the team, which is usually in exchange for free advertising. The wives will not get jobs because few people want to hire someone who has to quite as soon as her husband is traded or too hurt to play or the end of the season comes and they go "back home." Not to mention that the unemployment rate really doesn't make it totally possible to find work and most of the players are Canadian so their wives would have to work under the table. Most players stop playing before their children are old enough to go to school as ECHL wages too low to support a family.

The USHL players will be staying with families in the community where they play. They will be there for an entire season. The ones who are in high school go to school here. They are out and about in the community because they are do placed in closets between games. They are the future NHL players.

I love the AHL idea. Let me know if you find one to come here. Hey let's just hold out for an NHL team. Maybe we can see good hockey in 50 years.

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12ytownhockey(12 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

lets see, jeff christian owned a house here and his wife was an attorney at a local firm, chris richards still owns a house here and his wife before having a child worked for a finanacial company, three of the players that stayed in the off season had jobs as well as their wives.girlfriends. and the ahl comment was an example, i dont expect to get that level here. but the fact remains that the ushl kids will definelty be gone in a couple of years, where the other might stick around long enough to get to know them. and one other thing, whether you like or not the ushl kids are not old enough to go into a bar and hang out. after the games they have no interaction with the town (i am sure there are special events), so most people will just go home. part of the reason to get any team here is to help the local economy which includes bars and restaraunts. steelhounds level players can for the most part go to a bar and hang out with the fans.like it or not this makes people more interested in the game as a whole. i am not trying to argue either, any hockey makes me happy, i go to phantoms games now and have been going for years. so dont cop attitude because someone has a different opinion

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13Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Certainly a few players have stayed in the area but just because players play here does not mean that they are any more likely to stay than a USHL player coming back here to play. You cited to very unusual examples. Most minor league players only play for a couple of years before they quit and go on to other careers. It is has happened in the past that USHL players have come back to the area they played as well.

USHL will hopefully move on after 2 years. That is longer then most minor league players stay with their teams. They may will not be in bars but they will be in our restaurants and at childrens schools as students and as special guests. I am certain that they will be a lot more events this year getting to know their new communities. The bar is not the only place you can get to know the players.

If you want to see the local economy helped it will come from all the people from Pittsburgh and Cleveland and other local cities coming to see the USHL. Unlike the ECHL and AHL, the USHL does not have any other local competition. All of the young players who hope to have a future in hockey, will want to come and see a game because this is a road that they hope to take in their life. They will most likely eat before the game.

The USHL is not anything like the NAHL. It seems that a lot of people are thinking they are extremely similar. They are not. The USHL has much better hockey than the ECHL does. I think it will surprise many people when they see their first game.

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14iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

yeah and the kids dont go to OUR schools...watch the USHL video and it says that they have tutors with them for their studies. One kid said in the video that if they get behind then they dont play a game. i'd rather watch guys that get suspended because of a fight not because they didn't do their 10th grade math homework!

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15paul21045(28 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

The Ultimate goal is to make the Chevy Centre profitable and to increase traffic for downtown businesses. You can't do that with Junior hockey. No one is going to pay $40,000 for a loge for Junior Hockey and the attendance last season compared to the Steelhounds answers the question about increading traffic for downtown businesses. . .so let's get on with getting a team that will do what the Chevy Centre needs!

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16valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Mark Sweetwood,
Steehounds: 3200 per game
Phantoms: 1000 per game

I really want hockey back to the Chevy Centre, but I want my money going to something that in the top levels of the minors. I love the Scrappers because I see future Indians. I want to see the stars we once had like Christenson and Margeson back in YTOWN!

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17Mr_Kia(5 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

They ARE in the schools. For example, the NTDP players all go to Ann Arbor Pioneer HS. As with college athletic programs, USHL teams provide tutors and other forms of academic support because these players are MUCH busier than your average high school kid. The hockey is essentially a full time job on top of the school work, and players have to remained focused to get those D1 scholarships.

Also, you cannot compare NAHL attendance to USHL. For one thing, USHL budgets are typically twice that of NAHL teams because they staff their operations and market themselves more like an ECHL team would. The only reason they aren't to the level of an ECHL budget is because they aren't paying players and providing them with worker's comp, which are two of the largest expenses of a minor league team after their building lease.

Canadians get it. They support junior hockey and have very few minor league teams. They know where the talent is.

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18Mr_Kia(5 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Valleyred, it is very unlikely that Youngtown would ever see the AHL come to town, which is the only real minor league that sends any players to the NHL. The lower level minor leagues are really more like independent baseball leagues. Yeah, they may send up a player that's slipped through the cracks once in awhile, but the teams exist more for entertainment than for actual player development. In some sense, the USHL really IS more like the A-ball example, down to the age of the players, particular those drafted out of HS and are in their first or second season of pro ball. Go Wiki the USHL alumni list. You'll see a lot of familiar NHL names, and that list will only grow with the addition of the NTDP, which all by themselves gets 10-15 kids drafted a season.

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19dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Valleyred, you are a joke if you call Jeff Christian (who I like and is a good player) a star. He played 3 or 4 games for a bad Penguins team. Compare that to current Phantom Brandon Saad. He is only 16 years old and was drafted last year by the OHL in the top ten. Two years from now when he is eligible he will be taken as one of the top 5 picks in the NHL first round. That is a star. He plays in our own back yard and there will be many others like him if the USHL comes. Why is Mario Lemieux who knows a little about hockey part owner of a USHL team in Omaha? The Phantoms who are not in high school are heavily involved in the community and the USHL would be expected to do the same. Maybe they won't go out for 30 beers with you after the game and hit on girls but that may not be a bad thing.

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20farmboy(1 comment)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

First of all, you will not get an AHL team to Youngstown, so lets not waste time on that absolutely ridiculous idea. Also, if you are comparing USHL with the NAHL, that shows how little informed you are. Now, lets establish the argument between USHL and ECHL correctly. To do so, we must first give the ECHL the correct definition - semi-pro hockey. Yes, that's right, players who are paid only during their playing months and must hold jobs during the off-season to support themselves are semi-pro. Not so glamorous, is it? USHL is the same level of hockey like the Major Juniors in Canada (OHL, WHL and QMJHL). You are talking about the highest talent level players who compete for legit shot at the NHL. For 85% of the ECHL players, NHL is not a realistic option. Btw, each of the Junior teams averages over 4,000 fans per home game, which of course didn't happen overnight, but is steady once established, because of the high quality of product on the ice. USHL in Youngstown can and will do the same.

We can make good arguments for either side when it comes to the good each team would mean to the community. ECHL players may come out to the bar and hanging out with you if you're the one buying. Don't forget the local strip joints which would also experience customer increase. On the other hand, the junior players' families who are out of town will come in to watch their kids on almost every weekend, spending money in local hotels and restaurants / bars, and most likely buy the drinks for the local fans instead. The USHL is interested in Youngstown, because we have here an established, financial sound owner who cares about hockey and because they are in process of expending out east. I'd rather see our city and community investing our souls and dollars in something that is growing and has long term future than something that struggles in over 50% of its locations every year, but would give us couple of drunks to hang out with.

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21dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Well said farmboy. You are obviously someone who knows hockey and should be taken seriously.

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22Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I think it should also be pointed out that the NAHL Phamtoms had very little time to work on marketing this season. The USHL team would have a lot more time so there numbers should be equal or better than the CHL who also had a lot of time prior to the opening game to do marketing. Just a thought.

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23truehockeyfan(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

If you want to see quality hockey, played by skilled players who have an up & coming career in the NHL or high quality minor league (AHL), you will want the USHL @ the Chevy Centre. These kids are tomorrows stars & age should have nothing to do with it! Quality hockey speaks for itself. If interested in seeing out of their prime players or players with little chance of advancement, then bring in a low level minor league team. They are just buying time until they are selling cars or bagging groceries. I truely don't understand how people who say they know and love hockey don't see the quality of the USHL over the ECHL. Hockey is more than fighting people (although they do mix it up, its just not staged like these goons).

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24dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Let me get this straight. We have a local owner who built the ice zone in hopes of bringing top level hockey to the area. Then he got a team that has made the playoffs 5 out of 6 years of its existence and played for the championship the last two years. Now he wants to bring to us the top level of junior hockey in America and oh, give the Chevy Center a 5 year deal for naming rights too. Well given all the facts I think it makes sense to pass up that deal and leave the center empty for a year. Maybe some white knight from out of town who we know nothing about will come and save us. Better yet we can get REO Speedwagon and Styx or Gallagher or maybe even Elvis.

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25boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

at least I'd pay to go see Styx.. This seems to be a lose lose situation. Most of the people who want hockey in this area are actual "hockey" fans...that being fans of the game. Good. Unfortunately, these fans who go and pay for the season tickets and the 90 dollar jerseys feel cheated because they bought season tickets and 90 dollar jerseys for the Steelhounds and now they have a memento of one more failed youngstown sports team( remember the youngstown pride?). I don't blame anyone for saying bah humbug to hockey in youngstown. I'll go to the Ice zone and watch whoever plays there. I'd also rather go to Pittsburgh and spend my hard earned money there(and I'm not even a penguins fan). I mean hell, for the price of one jersey, I can order the NHL center ice package and sit on my couch and not have to hear a bunch of dumb youngstowners yell "fight fight fight" during a hockey game.

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26Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Boardmanneedsachange It sounds like you are concerned that about the longevity of the team. A 5 year committment is more than others have offered and longer than a lot of marriages. It is longer than what we require the person running for the United States presidency. Whereas I agree that some fans do not have a temendous amount of knowledge about hockey, it is still an entainment first and for most. You will also find these fans at Pittsburgh Penguins games. If you are happier in your house with NHL center ice, then either a semi-pro or USHL team should be no concern to you.

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27boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Hey brainiac, remember when Herb Washington signed a contract with the arena and the city to have his hockey team in the chev for a certain amount of time? Then he got booted from the league? then the city had to pay him 40 grand because they wanted another hockey team to play there? I could sign a contract to whistle the battle hymn of the republic out my rear end for five years, but that doesnt mean im gonna get it done.

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28Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Hey boardmanneedsachange nice name calling. At least Bruce is willing to make a comittemnet and has the finacial means to do it. How much sense does it make for the Center to have any permanent tenent? It meand that the local tax payer will have to pay for it. Not to worry you will still be able to see Styx play.

As for whistling the battle hymn of the republic out of your rear end for five years, I doubt anyone would pay to see that as I sispect that you have been doing it for years for free.

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29hjhk13(1 comment)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I totally agree with dotherightthing. Over the past few years I have become a fan of Phantoms hockey and have enjoyed attending games. I believe that having a local owner is a big deal and is something that shouldn't be taken for granted. I have also done some research on the ECHL vs USHL and although the ECHL may claim "professional" it's far far from the NHL. From what I've read the USHL is supplying many more draft picks for the NHL. As already stated, right now the Phantoms have Brandon Saad who just may be the number one draft pick for the NHL in 2011...wouldn't it be nice to say he came from our arena? To the people who say that they don't want to see "high Schoolers" play hockey...LeBron James brought in thousands to see him play when he was only in HIGH SCHOOL! Youngstown could be showcasing the NHL's future stars and that's something special!

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30boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Nice work. Well whatever they do, I and my family won't be back to any events at the Chevy Center, hockey or not. I certainly don't need them, just as much as I'm sure they don't need me.

Oh, and you should try to slow down when you are typing, I'm sure you don't misspell that much. It's just hockey dude. Chill.

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31jowitwer(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Do the numbers! The USHL is only averaging 2800 in attendance. The top team is the only team at above 3300 (4300) The rest (10 of the 11) only average 2400. These aren't figures that will keep a team here! They aren't the figures we've been hearing, they aren't even the figures we had with the Steelhounds.

I’ve played and coached the game at the Jr., and up. USHL or NAHL hockey is High School Hockey - good High School Hockey, but still the same High School, and a number of High School Teams from Minnesota or Michigan could probably do well in either league. Yes a number of players get drafted by the NHL, but most NHL drafts come from the Canadian Junior Leagues (OHL, WHL, QHL), not the U.S. leagues, U.S. Colleges are the next major source. A lot of people seem to think that the Minor League players in the CHL/IHL/ECHL are unskilled bums - most have strong credentials from their years as successful players in the Junior Leagues and College teams. These guys are skilled, dedicated players. Most average in their mid to high 20's and there's a huge difference between someone 28 running into you and someone 18. The same goes for shooting power, puck handling, skating, etc.

We're talking about a business here, and the numbers just don't cut it for the USHL - maybe for the OHL (the Canadian Jr. League located in Ontario, NY and PA.). That league has a higher average age level & a large percentage of the players are already drafted by NHL teams and simply playing to develop physically and skill wise. But, either of the U.S. Jr. leagues are not going to put numbers into the seats the a Pro Team would, and that’s what this is all about.

The ECHL is the best bet here for business reasons - Great Entertainment Value, low travel expenses, controlled player salaries, etc. The IHL plays good hockey with more older players and more the old style NHL clutch and grab - it is moderate in operational costs and the travel range is reasonable.

The AHL really requires a NHL team to foot the bill which is huge compared to A level minor league. We could manage the numbers as several AHL team play in arenas of near the Centre's size, but the operational costs are just way out of sight.

If you could put Zoldan's Jr team in without any lock on weekend dates or controls so that a Pro team could have an open door to the Centre, then let him come. But if you let him have any control, then you simply have what Washington did to him when he wanted to have a tournament here.

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32dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

jowitwer, a lot of things have changed since you played and coached. 8 tracks are gone as well as cassettes. There is no high school team in Minnesota, Michigan or Boston that could play competitively with any USHL team. If you are talking finances the USHL does not pay players at all but the ECHL and OHL do and as far as travel is concerned why do you think the USHL wants to come here? I'll tell you. Youngstown and Team USA are the first two teams that are going to be involved in the league expanding east to include New York, PA, Mass and other closer states. If the birth place of hockey (Canada) only has 4 or 5 non NHL "pro teams" and a total commitment to junior hockey then perhaps we should pay attention to them. I bet you could play on an ECHL team right now if you wanted to.

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33jowitwer(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, a lot of people in the Great Lakes States will argue with you on how good their High School Teams are. The OHL players are amateurs just like the NAHL and USHL team players. Canada has a full league of Pro teams in the Eastern Provinces in the LNAH and a huge network of semi-pro teams and leagues throughout the country playing in Senior Leagues.

Plus Canadian Jr hockey is still superior to the U.S. brand - just look at the draft numbers. You might want to take in an Erie Otter game to see the difference between Canadian Jr. and the USHL variety. The hitting is harder, the speed is higher and the player skills on average are better. Plus a lot of the best U.S. players who don't go into the college ranks are on Canadian Jr. Teams.

The ECHL is the 2nd leading minor league sending players to the NHL behind the AHL. Over 400 ECHL players have made into the NHL, so I doubt if I could even skate in a warm-up, but I still might be able to clean the clock of a 16 year old who put's his head down with the puck coming down my wing.

People keep waving the Amateur Hockey is the future flag - but the numbers aren't there. The East coast already has a strong Jr. system as well as teams in both of the Canadian eastern Jr. Leagues. Except for the Canadian affiliated teams, the rest draw the same of less than the numbers seen in the USHL. Comparing how Canadians go to Hockey games and how we do here is like arguing why Pro Soccer is a bust here and the biggest sport in the World elsewhere. Canadians love hockey like Europeans love Soccer.

We heard the same thing about expansion with the CHL when it came to town. Didn't happen then either. Even if it did happen, expansion has never improved the level of play. There isn't that high a surplus of skilled players out there to put into new teams at an equal quality level. Expansion in the NHL needed Europe to balance out the player pool.

To expand you have to have a viable product - unless you just want to be a generous citizen and donate you money to support the local team. U.S. Jr. Hockey doesn't draw enough to do it.

This isn't an argument over the playing level of U.S. Jr. Hockey over Minor Pro Hockey - it's about what is best for Youngstown and the Chevy Centre. The numbers aren't there for Jr. hockey to be successful - no matter what the "talking points" say, the figures don't show it as anything but an outside chance at best. Ohio already lost on USHL team because it couldn't draw - and that in a strong hockey market in Columbus with a successful OSU team and the Bluejackets of the NHL.

The Centre needs a hockey team - it needs one that can draw over 3500 on average and higher with a well run management team in place. A Jr. team can't do that, but a Minor League team in either the ECHL or the IHL can do that.

Bottom line, Pro Hockey will put people in the seat, Jr. Hockey hasn't and won't

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34valleyred(1102 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I said ECHL!!!!! Not AHL.

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35Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

To Jowitwer: You suggested that we "do the number." Okay her are 2 numbers for you. The two closest ECHL teams to us are Wheeling and Johnstown. They average 2838 and 2346 per game respectively. That means by your own number of 2800 fans per game in the USHL they would average more and be a better choice for the Chevy Center.

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36Hockey4life(8 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Sorry but I didn't finish my post. So by averaging those two teams, a USHL team averages more attendance. Also, Wheeling is an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins so they should draw a bit better being so close together.

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37jowitwer(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Hockey4life. You didn't do all the numbers - which I did. The ECHL league average is 4131. 18 of the leagues 29 teams average over 3500 - the magic number in minor league hockey to be cost effective. Minor league hockey has no relationship in attendance to who they are affiliated with, the team on the ice and it's promotion are the draws. One of teams of the USHL is drawing only 1400.

Wheeling has not been a successful franchise over the last 4 years and is looking to move (though not admitting to it publically). Johnstown is run at a loss by the city to keep the building active. - they have been in the league since it began, and were an active minor league team in other leagues before that - the arena only seats 3800 if you hang from the rafters (see Slap Shot to see the insides).

If the Phantoms had drawn say 2500 in their games I would have said there was a chance of a USHL doing okay, but they didn't, without family and friends the arena would be empty for their games. The public has shown no interest - even with the promotions, and coverage they've received. It's still a simple choice based on the numbers - Youngstown Pro Hockey has shown it can draw even with all the problems of the Steelhounds, a very well run Amateur team with the Phantoms are hasn't drawn. If you can have the USHL while still allowing a Pro franchise to come in then let them, but don't put a USHL team in at the expense of a Pro team in the building.

I'm still trying to figure out why Zoldan simply doesn't add 2000 seats to his Ice Zone to put his USHL franchise in. Why the push on the Chevy? It's going to cost him about 3500 per game to use the Chevy, but if he enlarged the Zone he'd only have the renovation costs to cover.

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38LancerFan(1 comment)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

So Mr Kia, no one from the USHL ever gets to the NHL except a few goalies and Goons? Maybe this list will surprise you:
( I had to provide a link because I was limited to 3000 characters)


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39dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I think we are forgeting an important point. The Phantoms stepped in and offered to play at the Chevy Center after all the other great options fell through. I will grant you the fact that they did not knock it dead with attendance but I question how much marketing they did knowing that they were looking to bring another team in or thinking this may be their last year so why try. However, when they did market (UAW night and Hockey for Health on a Tuesday morning) they had between 4-5000 fans. Something else to consider is the coaches. Why do they want a USHL team instead of a CHL team? An ECHL team requires less time, would pay much more and is a quicker path to an NHL job if successful. The USHL requires way more time, tons of community service and pays less. The reason why they want a USHL team is because they realize it is better hockey and a better business model to boot. We will see hopefully soon what happens and I hope for my selfish interest and my son's USHL wins. One more thing: What hooked you on hockey? Watching hockey night in Canada once a week or emulating the older kids that you saw at the rink everyday and pushed you to be like them?

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40puckbusiness(3 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

What I don't understand is why people are looking at this year's Phantoms numbers like they mean anything at all. Let's not forget a couple key points:

1- Like Bill Clinton said, "It's the economy, stupid!" While I know we were swimming in cash here in the Valley from 2005 to early '08, the area's biggest business also was not on Capitol Hill begging for taxpayer money just to avoid going under, either. Entertainment industries are the first to get stung during an economic pinch, so why are people hanging out the Phantoms numbers and directly comparing them to a time when our are wasn't in a dire economic state? And it's not just ignoramus commenters, it's ignoramus columnists like Skolnick who do it too. It's like comparing apples to rotten bananas.

2- Marketing. Thanks to Herb Washington's refusal to give up the ghost in 2008, the Phantoms had exactly eight days to market themselves at the Chevy Centre. I dug through the Phantoms' website and their Chevy Centre press conference was on September 9th while their season started on September 17th. I don't even think the gang from Mad Men could properly market that! Don't you think that if a team had 5 months to market themselves instead of eight days that they'd be able to make a bigger dent in local opinion?

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41puckbusiness(3 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I'm sorry, that should read "we were not swimming in cash".

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42houndsfan(68 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Bruce Zoldan that an ECHL team would struggle to make it here.

The economy has hit the area hard.
Lets face it a ticket price increase would have to happen, the Steelhounds were discussing one. Johnstown is $17.50 and discounts for kids tickets and Wheeling's cheapest tickets are $13.
I think it would be difficult to average 3,000 in attendance, would probably be somewhere around 3600 first year, 3000 second year, 2800 third year and 2500 fourth year.

I would prefer ECHL, but I don't believe the area will support pro hockey for any length of time. I just hope the people in charge make the right decision, I don't want to be back in this situation in another 3 years.

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43boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

still there?

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44jowitwer(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

There's been a lot of bashing of the Minor Leagues in these comments - All unfair. The ECHL is the 2nd most productive suppler of players to the NHL behind the AHL. Nearly all NHL players spend time in the minor leagues to improve their game up to the professional level from what they had played when drafted from the Canadian Jr Leagues, Colleges or, yes the U.S. based Jr. Leagues. The league allows the fewest "veteran" players of 3 "AA" minor leagues. That means the majority of players on the ice are young guys trying to make to the next level.

Seems like a lot of people think that the USHL is a straight step to the NHL. As a league they are way behind the Canadian Jr. Leagues and Colleges. And just like players from those sources, most USHL players that get drafted don't make the NHL. Most spend their career in the Minor Leagues.

ECHL hockey is a step above the CHL we had, less older players, more players under NHL contract and a better chance at moving up. The age average is mid-20's so they are fast and hit hard. These are'nt kids learning the game, these are adult players trying their all to move ahead. They aren't old foggies playing out their days, there's no room for them on the rosters.

Youngstown deserves the best level of hockey it can get into the Chevy Centre. The ECHL is a step above the USHL in speed, hitting and general skills, just like The Akron Aeros are a step above the MV Scrappers.

It was gracious for Mr. Zoldan to put is team in the Chevy when there were dates to fill. But the attendance never met his projections, so putting another team at a bit higher level is still going to be amateur hockey and that hasn't drawn any sort of numbers to show it has a potential to be successful. All the efforts for other Ohio Amateur Hockey teams in either the USHL or NAHL have failed as well - Cleveland Jr. Barons, Columbus Jr. Bluejackets, and now the Phantoms have to move to Michigan because of the high cost of travel. Arguing that the Phantoms didn't have time to market better doesn't hold-up since all they were doing was playing 5 miles away from where they normally played. The Phantoms have a strong marketing organization and excellent connections with the Newspapers and TV so they were well promoted.

Pro Hockey didn't fail in Youngstown - The owner failed. We had satisfactory attendance to keep a pro team playing here - we just didn't have a league to play in. Given a more experienced organization with the support of arena management that is not out only for the home office in Texas, and coverage by newspapers and local TV, Youngstown can be very successful with a Pro Team.

Let the Amateur League come in, but don't block out a Pro Franchise by giving Mr. Zoldan controls of playing dates, access, etc such as we had with Herb Washington.

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45dotherightthing(10 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

jowitwer, you obviously have a better understanding of hockey than most. You keep spotting Columbus as an example of a failed USHL franchise. No Sh*t that it failed. They were third on the list behind an NHL team and OSU hockey. If you tried to bring USHL to Pittsburgh and compete with the Penguins guess what would happen? Youngstown in unique since we don't have to compete with anyone in town. On the same hand you say bring the ECHL and USHL here. That is ludicrous!! I don't think the USHL is a straight path to the NHL by any means but those kids are going up where many ECHLers are holding on failing to realize their dream is over. No one remembers Joe Smith who played 10 seasons in the ECHL in 7 towns or the last cut on the 80 USA Olympic team but they will remember a lot of players who lived here for 2 or 3 years and helped grow and promote hockey for young players and hockey purists. It is true that most pros are not Sidney Crosby and go straight to the NHL. I know they spend time in the minors but if they are good the go to the AHL on the way up not ECHL on the way down

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46toddfranko(101 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

I applaud all of you for great exchanges on this thread. From the Vindy team, thank you.

I like all the opinions on both sides of the debate. I like good hockey. I can see it with the E. But I also see it with the U.

What concerns me most about the pro model of the E is the failure rate of franchises. I've had a pretty good seat over the last few months in this process and the stat I offer that gets everyone's attention is that in the last 10 years of the ECHL, only 8 cities have had continuous franchises to start the E this year. Of those 8, one is Wheeling and we know they want to come here. One is Johnstown and they're barely alive, and the other (Augusta?) bagged it at mid-season.

But forget those 8 cities though. In the same 10 years, 24 cities have started AND FAILED at having an E team. Each city's story was the same as our SteelHounds gig: (Blank) team had a great first year, then attendance sank and financial troubles ensued."

The scary thing I share with folks was that those failed team THRIVED with crowds of 8K and 9K. They FAILED with crowds of 3K and 4K.

Their worst crowds are what we're hoping to have as great crowds here -- essentially the same size crowd - 3,500 - that turned out for the Thunder Friday night.

The real draw in coming to a hockey game -- for a general fan -- is ultimately the entertainment of it all. What will bring people out to either team (the U or the E) is a cheap entertainment ticket in the $5-$7 range. You won't get that low of a price with the E.

The U has worked in sophisticated sports markets like Green Bay, Omaha, Des Moines and Lincoln. Each offers tickets in that low range. Are we more special of a sports market than they are?

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47houndsfan(68 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago


Thanks for doing the research. If those stats are presented to the city, then it sounds like a no brainer that the USHL would be best for the area.

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48truehockeyfan(6 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

Well said Todd! I agree completely. When you look at all aspects of both options the USHL is the better option. The quality of play is phenomenal, but also of great importance, the cost of a ticket is more affordable. My family of 5 can go to a USHL game for about $40, versus $100 for an ECHL game. Quite a difference in todays economic forecast! I know peronally speaking I would be much more apt to go to alot of USHL games @ that cost, & I guarantee I would not attend many ECHL games for that amount of money.

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49Mr_Kia(5 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

LancerFan, re-read what I said. I was referring to player promotion from professional leagues when discussing the type of players who advance to the NHL from AA. I am well aware of who is represented among USHL alumni and offered a similar list to yours.

As for jowitwer, his posts are so full of inaccuracies and outdated dogma that it's difficult to determine if he's shilling for the ECHL (or IHL), or simply out of touch.

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50Mr_Kia(5 comments)posted 6 years, 6 months ago


Phoenix folds, Dayton/Mississippi suspend. That's on top of Augusta and Fresno folding mid-season.

Yeah, the ECHL is a really solid, sustainable league. *rolleyes*

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51starfan2(1 comment)posted 6 years, 6 months ago

i as a fan of ushl can say that my home town of lincoln, ne has the leagues most attendance of avg of over 4000 people per game the fans are amazing and the level of compitition is intense the players do all kinds of time with fans at events like skate with stars all proceeds go to a cancer foundation. and other events atleast once a month around town. in our town businesses have flags of the team hanging, cars have stickers in the windows. Lincoln is home of the Huskers football and still we have a fan base like this. we have a great traveling fan base. i just want to make the point that the USHL brought great things to our town.

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