Nearly a week after Bus League Hockey was given the anonymous tip of “look to Pennsylvania for expansion”, we’ve received official confirmation from multiple sources close to the league that the Federal Hockey League is heading to the Keystone State – however the exact city is being kept very close to the chest.
After the receiving of our initial tip and speculation, the same anonymous source passed along the rumblings they heard.
“I’m told that our two [expansion] teams this year are Central-East. Ohio and Pennsylvania, helping to bridge the gap between Watertown [NY], Winston[-Salem, N.C.] and the western teams. The PA team is not going to be a reuse of an old FHL market, where it is is anyone’s guess.”
Earlier today, a league source reached out to us with information regarding expansion.
“I know for certain a place in PA, that has not been previously served by the FHL, is going to happen. No idea which one.”
So where does that leave us?
York is a presumable idea. A sports city that seems to be able to host 1,250 and has uses as an indoor football arena as well as hockey, lessening the lease price with multiple tenants.
Another is The Iceoplex in Washington County, PA. Washington County is already home to an independent professional baseball team (Washington Wild Things, Frontier League), is 20 miles from Pittsburgh, and has a connection to make it a big hockey town. A commenter on our site justified it with sound reasoning.
“The FHL should look at the [Pittsburgh] Penguins’ old practice rink…The Iceoplex is the perfect size for the FHL: at least 1500 seats and it’s a nice building. The rink got new owners last year and they just may be open to the idea. Years ago they hosted a regular season ECHL game between Wheeling and Johnstown.”
UPDATE: A source from the league has reached out and said neither market meets their requirements, and has also stated that only three buildings meet their size requirements.
We speculate that with Scott Brand presumably leading the charge, and local ownership in place for Mentor (which we have confirmed by another league source), that it would not be a locally owned team. If this is true, it’s not a dangerous assumption to believe that Barry Soskin would have a stake in this new team, which would mean stable ownership and the right people put in place.
Pennsylvania has not worked in the past, but this is not the fault of the fans or the league. The SWPA Magic and Steel City Warriors were destined to fail, with ownership jumping ship right at the beginning of the season in Rostraver. Fans had been ready and on-board, but the teams essentially were born to die, and the fans weren’t going to get attached to a dead on arrival franchise.
As you know to expect, we’ll continue to search until we find the rink that will host the Federal Hockey League this season. We have confirmation from multiple sources, and that tells us more than enough that we’ve at least pinned down what state to scavenge.