The FHL expansion rumor excitement hit full-force yesterday, when the news that Elmira was on the yet-to-be-released FHL master schedule for this season leaked.
That got everyone excited that such a strong hockey market was set to join the FHL, giving the league a huge boost in credibility and also giving them potential reach to more eastern markets.
But there’s just one problem.
According to WETM in Elmira, the potential ownership group led by Robbie Nichols and the people at First Arena, potential home for the FHL team, have yet to reach an agreement on a lease.
And it sounds like time to get a deal done is running very short, as WETM reports that there is a deadline of 4 p.m. Wednesday to get a deal in place, or there is no hockey coming to Elmira, and the FHL doesn’t have a team that is reportedly on the master schedule. WETM also reports that the deal is currently in the hands of lawyers, a bit of news that has been confirmed to BLH through multiple sources close to the league.
The biggest hang-ups appear to be the need for numerous repairs to the First Arena, including the roof, ice-making capabilities, boards, and boilers, something multiple people in Elmira have told us has been issues since the Jackals of the ECHL left town last spring.
Nichols told WETM that the most recent proposal that they sent to the county and First Arena is their final offer.
Nichols was involved with trying to bring a FHL team to Elmira last season, with the Star Gazette reporting last summer that the two sides negotiated until mid-July, right about the same time this year, before a deal couldn’t be reached. The biggest hang-up last year, like this year, was replacing the ice plant, and rent. In that story from last year, the Star Gazette reported the two sides were $10,000 a month apart on potential lease terms, and astronomical sum in the budget-conscious FHL.
So what does this all mean?
It means that at the moment, it appears the FHL has Elmira on its master schedule without the owners and rink having a deal in place to have an actual team, with the deadline fast approaching.
With the offer in lawyer’s hands, it sounds like a deal is imminent but there is still the chance that things could go wrong, or not be agreed upon, and suddenly, Elmira is out and the FHL is left scrambling to fill a vacant spot in the league.
It would potentially mean having five teams in Port Huron, Watertown, Danville, Carolina, and Mentor, which puts the league under the required six needed to allow import players to play, and potentially opens the door for the return of North Shore for a season, so they can keep their import players.
It’s an odd saga, and one that you hope doesn’t end with the worst possible conclusion for Elmira and the FHL, and it is certainly something we’ll be keeping a close eye on as the Wednesday deadline approaches.