Maybe a week or so ago we at BLH were accused of being too negative with our coverage after we posted an update that the corpse of the Berlin BlackJacks was set to return under new ownership and a new name.
And in fairness to that comment on our Facebook page, yeah, a lot of the stuff we cover and write about on this site IS bad news or kind of mean to those teams and leagues, but with good reason.
But before we get into that reason, let us say this: Myself, Mat, and Shawn have all lived in towns that lost their teams at one point or another, sometimes multiple times, or saw the leagues that our favorite teams were in dissolve seemingly out of nowhere. Heck, my hometown was losing its pro team, only to be getting a team in the USHL the very next season that was likely better hockey…and the fans openly wept after they lost the final game in franchise history on home ice in the playoffs.
I bring that up because we know the anger, frustration, confusion, sadness, and other emotions that come with losing a team as fans in Berlin, and now apparently Laredo, Wichita Falls, the Rio Grande Valley area of south Texas are feeling.
We’re hockey fans first and foremost, so we know what other fans are feeling, and we feel insanely awful for these people who had the excitement of hockey come back to town, in some cases after nearly a decade without a team, only to have it pulled away just over a month into the first season.
But more than the fans, the towns, the rinks, we feel worst of all for the players that get dragged into these messes. For some, they traveled across the country or the world to play in Berlin, New Hampshire for the BlackJacks in LNAH, or down to Texas for any of the four USACHL teams, only to be told that, through no fault of their own, things are so bad that the team, and in the USACHL’s case, the league, are done and you’ve either got to go home or find a new place to play. I can’t even imagine how the kids in the USACHL feel right now, packing their bags and heading out after all the things they were likely promised by the teams and league.
No town and fans should ever lose their hockey team, but it is an unfortunate reality of low-pro and junior hockey. And like we mentioned above, writing about only positive things in the lower rungs of the hockey world isn’t always possible, but more than anything, it isn’t being honest with readers and fans.
I’ll be honest with you, we do get some joy out of reporting that a team is a stinker and on the brink, or finding out about all the latest drama that continues with the USACHL, but that doesn’t mean we take joy in the fact that thousands of fans (in the case of Berlin there were SOME fans we laughed at, but that was because they swore up and down Berlin and LNAH were going to run the FHL into the ground and prove to everyone it was the FHL’s fault the Berlin River Drivers folded) and dozens of players are losing something they love.
Yes, we post about it for attention and to bring people to the site, but also so hockey fans and maybe even some players know what the hell is going on with their team and league. Because really, that’s all the fans and players want when one of these messes starts up, someone to be straight with them and tell them what’s going on, so one way or another, they know if they are playing or packing. And in some way, I hope our coverage and posting does that, even if it’s negative.
And look no further than how the past week in the USACHL has gone. The papers and TV stations in Wichita Falls and Laredo have done their best to keep fans up on the league, providing any update they can about players leaving, the team folding, and even the league folding. All terrible news items to report and read for hockey fans.
But if it were up to Bill Davidson and the brass at the USACHL you wouldn’t know any of this. Because while the arena, coaches, players, billet families, and more were all reporting about how bad things had gotten with the team, Davidson sat there with a straight face and told the paper in Wichita Falls that everything was fine, the team was doing great, the league was actually doing amazing, and that everybody else was lying, not him. If you were living under a rock, you might believe this guy, who has tried to put the blame on everyone else for the team and league failure, and that’s not right, and people need to know that’s not right.
Heck, even the team pages were either lying or misleading fans. The Laredo Bucks Facebook page hadn’t posted an update since last week, and that was about the team being at a holiday event, nothing about their games that weekend being cancelled, or an update about the team and league going forward. Then the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees page basically said they were doing everything they could, things were great, and the team made the trip up to Wichita Falls for the weekend! And not a word about that those games were cancelled, or what was going on with their next games. Even going so far as to delete negative comments on that post.
So yes, much of the news about the leagues and teams we cover, but that’s part of the territory that comes with low-pro and junior hockey. The news isn’t always going to be positive, so we don’t want you to think we’re piling on, but just trying to get information out there that the fans want to know.