Hey, sorry for the lack of content last week, but life and real work happens, so we were unable to bring you all of the great hockey news about leagues you didn’t know you cared about, but we are back at it this week with an update from the USA Central Hockey League.
After getting radio silence from the USACHL about rumored expansion teams, the league quietly announced on Facebook early Friday evening that they had added a fourth team for the 2018-19 season, the Texas Lawmen, who will play out of McAllen, Texas.
Here is the full release from the USACHL Facebook page:
The USACHL is proud to announce that McAllen, Texas will be the fourth team for the 2018-2019 season. The team will be called the Texas Lawmen in honor of the law enforcement in the great state of Texas.
“We have been waiting on two other locations for some time and we realized that with the puck dropping in two months that we had to move on to another location,” says USACHL President Troy Mick. “Our CEO Bill Davidson stepped up and has acquired an arena where he will have to invest over a million dollars to make this happen. Now the USACHL will own its own facility that will increase our ability to be a leader in player development while making a positive economic impact to the community of McAllen.”
Davidson added, “I’m so happy a deal developed in the 11th hour with Betty and Lonnie Gegenheimer, owners of the arena we are purchasing the assets from. I have gotten to know them over the past couple of weeks and they are two of the most amazing people I have met in my life. They have such a passion for enhancing and giving back to the community that it just insures we have made the right decision.”
The Texas Lawmen will announce their first Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel this coming Tuesday, August 28. Fans can follow the team on social media channels at @Texas_Lawmen.
The USACHL will commence with main camps set for Sept 21 in Wichita Falls and McAllen. The Laredo Bucks will join the Force while the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees will partner with the Lawmen for main camp.
USACHL first season kicks off October 26, 2018 in Hildago at the State Farm Arena as they will take on the Laredo Bucks with a scheduled 7 PM puck drop.
This gets the league up to four teams along with the Laredo Bucks, Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, and Wichita Falls Force, meaning each team will play the others a whopping 16 times over the 48-game season, but raises a TON of other questions and concerns.
Let’s start with that first quote from President Troy Mick, that the league had been working with two other locations about expansion teams and eventually had to move on. We heard rumor that Dodge City, Kansas was supposed to be a potential city, reached out to the league about it, and heard nothing. There was also a rumor from The Junior Hockey News that the fourth city was supposed to be Beaumont, Texas before the above announcement was made, so what made those two cities bail, and how did they end up in McAllen?
The McAllen question is really baffling, because Rio Grande Valley literally plays right next door to McAllen in Hidalgo at the State Farm Arena. So instead of having that whole market of Pharr, McAllen, Hidalgo, Mission, and Edinburg, there are now two teams within 10 minutes of each other fighting for hockey fans to come see their new team in a new league. And this new team has exactly two months to try to sell tickets, sponsors, get players, do those arena upgrades, and just get a hockey team together. This makes the FHL look like the most stable and organized league in the world after they announced expansion teams in July.
Mick also said in that first quote that league acquired an arena and that they will have to put over a million dollars into it to make it USACHL ready. But they don’t say where the arena is, or what existing arena it might be. Remember, on the league website they said each team in the league will be playing in arenas with 5000+ seats. And if you Google, “McAllen, Texas arena,” you get the State Farm Arena, where Rio Grande Valley is set to play.
There’s Bert Ogden Arena, but that has 9000+ seats and would be insanely big for this league. And there’s the McAllen Convention Center is there, but doesn’t really have an arena that would sport hockey.
Finally, with three teams within three hours of each other, what the hell does this mean for Wichita Falls? If I were a player or coach on Wichita Falls, I would be PISSED. Every road trip is 8+ hours away, there is not a mutual travel partner for them to try to cut down travel costs. How in the world is that fair to them, and how in the world did you not get at least one team near them? I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I would bet my house Wichita Falls doesn’t survive this season with all those extra costs they will have compared to the other three teams.
And if that wasn’t enough, if you read that story we linked to up above from The Junior Hockey News, it doesn’t sound like this league is exactly raking in new players. According to that link, there were NINE players total at their tryout camp in Chicago. Nine. As in six skaters and three goalies. That’s not enough for two lines on a team, let alone enough to fill four rosters.
Now, maybe they get some guys from the NAHL who are cut when their roster cutdown happens after the NAHL Showcase, but if you’re filling out your roster with NAHL cast-offs or NA3HL guys who want to play for free, that really isn’t the amazing hockey that the league has promised on its website. Also a FYI, the Lawmen are still not listed as a team on the league website.
So yeah, the USACHL has its fourth team, basically one they had to create out of thin air to get to four teams for this season. Two months until puck-drop, and I cannot wait to see what happens with this league going forward.