Less than a week after the USACHL Texas Lawmen called it quits, the Wichita Falls Force are the next team to fold, according to those close to the team.
After Friday night’s scheduled game against Rio Grande Valley was cancelled, the Wichita Falls MPEC Facebook page posted an update this morning about games that were allegedly still scheduled for Saturday and Sunday:
Shortly after that, this post appeared on the Force Booster Club Facebook page, confirming what we all saw coming once the league got down to three teams, and once Friday’s game was cancelled:
The folding of the Force just seemed like the next step after things really turned bad on Friday.
The news leaked yesterday that the Friday game was canceled due to RGV having issues with the bus company that was supposed to take them to the game, at least according to Force coaches and staff. Then the newspaper in Wichita Falls countered that with the report that the team hadn’t yet paid for the ice time for this weekend’s games, and that even when the team was making payments, they were arriving later and later.
UPDATE: News Channel 6 in Wichita Falls, the TV station that provided live-streaming for the Force home games, reports that the team owes the arena and city more than $10,000 and that players had to contact the arena to get in and clean out their lockers after the team was locked out.
Even worse, there have been comments from RGV fans that the Bees made the 10 hour drive up to Wichita Falls for Saturday and Sunday’s games, only to basically have to turn right back around after the announcement that the remaining games had been cancelled.
The Force played a 3-game series last weekend at home against the Laredo Bucks, dropping all three games in front of sparse crowds and with each team only having about 12 players.
The Force were the third team announced by the USACHL this year, officially being added to the league in June. The team temporarily brought hockey back to Wichita Falls after the departure of the NAHL Wichita Falls Wildcats following the 2016-17 season.
With the Force seemingly done, that leaves just the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees and Laredo Bucks as the last USACHL teams standing, and you have to wonder if an announcement about their futures is on the way.
RGV is reportedly the only team in good standing as far as roster size is concerned, while the future of hockey in Laredo appeared bright after the Bucks drew more than 3,700 fans to their first, and to date only, home game.
There had been talks that with three teams the league was hoping to bring in outside opponents to round out the schedule holes made by the Lawmen folding. But having only two teams isn’t even remotely a league, at that point it’s pick-up hockey with nicer uniforms, and you have to think that this is end of the USACHL, barely a month after officially taking the ice.
And if this is indeed the end, you have to feel bad for these towns and fans that thought hockey was coming back, only for the rug to pulled out from them right after the start.
But most of all you have to feel terribly for the players that were roped into this league. Promises of big arenas, exposure, and free-to-play hockey. Instead they had a bunch of cancellations and wondering what’s next for their hockey careers. If there is a silver-lining for those players, it is at least early enough in the year for them to hopefully latch-on to a new team in a different league.
We’ll have more on what’s left of the USACHL as we find things out.
UPDATE: The official Force Facebook page issued the following statement moments ago, but did not say the team was folding.
We’ll keep our eye open for any comment from the league about the Force and other remaining teams.