Could the Federal Hockey League makes it return to the Buckeye State for the 2018 season?
The rumors said yes, and a source at the Mentor Civic Arena has confirmed that the FHL has reached out to the rink.
Let’s back up.
Some time ago, Carolina Thunderbirds General Manager (and liaison) Scott Brand confirmed that the league was searching for a member city in Ohio, and sources said it was within a 30 mile range of Cleveland.
Having confirmed that it was not in the Akron/Canton area, @Rovitz7 furiously scanned every ice rink in Northern Ohio looking for an FHL sized rink, and the other night he finally found one that fit the bill, in Lake County.
That, was the Mentor Civic Arena.
Mentor is a city of just under 47,000 people, right on the shores of Lake Erie. Nestled in Lake County, Mentor is six miles away from the Eastlake, home of the Single-A MiLB franchise Lake County Captains, showing the area itself can support minor league sports.
36 minutes (25 miles) from Cleveland, it fits the bill of the size and location of a prototypical successful FHL franchise. Being so-close-yet-so-far from an established American Hockey League city, one could venture that this is a community that has hockey in their blood.
Upon some deeper research, this proved true. We discovered that there’s a major youth hockey development program based in the city, an arena itself that seems to seat what the FHL is looking for (we cannot confirm this outside of photos, no statistics of seating capacity are available publicly), and something that never hurts – a pair of former high-Pro hockey players who teach hockey live incredibly close to the vicinity of the rink.
In desperate pursuit of information, Rovitz and I started sending out email, messages, and making phone calls to get any information confirming our suspicions, and today, we got it.
Rovitz received a response today from an administrator at the Mentor Civic Arena, who was particularly confidential on saying anything that could confirm or deny the city would be getting a Federal Hockey League team.
They did give us this specific piece of information, though.
“Any announcement of this sort should, out of courtesy, be made by the representatives of the Federal Hockey League…I can tell you that it is common for us to talk with a multitude of potential ice users/partners and, yes, the FHL has been among those.” they said, “All of the specifics of the Arena have been shared with the FHL.”
Does that tell us that there will be a team in Mentor ready to go for 2018?.
No. That doesn’t.
Here’s what does: The League’s assured and constant reminder of Ohio, and that a team is to be announced soon.
On at least two occasions, May 17 has been the day marked as when a new team would be announced.
May 17, coincidentally, is today.
From the latter paragraph, you’d think that that would be Battle Creek (MI) that would be confirmed. However, there’s been discussion since then saying that things are moving “slowly but forward” with Battle Creek. Don’t count them out for 2018, but I don’t think they’re the announcement.
Meanwhile, confirmation of discussion with and statistical shared to the FHL from the Mentor Civic Arena tells us that talks have progressed to a point where its in the hands of the league to make a decision. Fitting, for the “City of Choice!”.
If Mentor proves to be the Cleveland-suburb based city where the FHL wants go, it’s a home-run. This rink is established and beautiful, the city is proven to be hockey hungry, there’s multiple sheets of ice, removing availability conflicts, and its in a rust-belt state that stays in the Midwest while serving as a nice halfway to Watertown (NY) and Port Huron (MI).
Mentor is four hours from Kingsville (ON, Canada) and Port Huron, just under six hours from Watertown, just under seven hours from Danville (IL), and eight hours from Winston-Salem (N.C.). That’s perfect distance for this league. Here’s what a map of the league would look like Mentor, and as you can see, it’s squarely in the middle of the current five teams:
This is incredibly interesting, and we’ll be anticipatory for what happens by the end of next week.
There will be at least one new FHL team before May is over.
Keep your eye on Mentor.