In light of the failures of the USACHL in rushing a start-up hockey league, the Interstate Hockey League has begun their development for their inaugural season in 2019.
As you may recall, the IHL is a semi-pro/senior league based in southeast Michigan. Going after former-failed/abandoned pro and junior arenas, along with undersized/unconsidered rinks, the IHL looked to create affordable, competitive, ‘old-time-hockey’. Following the Scott Brand marketing and approach to a league, Commissioner Drake Mackenzie wanted to assure that the right people, right steps, and right cities were being considered for the catalyst season, and for expansion after year one.
Seeing the writing on the walls as year one approached, and with dilemmas outside of MacKenzie’s control – including the unfortunate passing of an owner and close friend of MacKenzie – the right step in his eyes was to wait.
Patience, in this case, proved to be virtuous. After BLH first reported on the IHL and the interest and mentality of MacKenzie, intrigued groups and owners from around the state and the state’s around started contacting him, and soon he realized that if time were applied, the league could reach its true potential before dropping the puck.
Many asked us what was happening/happened with the IHL since there’d been no news regarding the league from us for some time, and the league announced a hiatus from this season. This hiatus has not been in vain, as MacKenzie has worked furiously in the last month negotiating with arenas and potential owners to organize the launch season.
Not just that, but his teams-to-be have been busy working on positive PR with their rinks and community before they officially get started.
According to sources close to the league, the IHL is anticipated to launch at 16 TEAMS next season – four teams in four geographic divisions across the state.
“All of the rinks have been contacted and want a part. Teams will be announced in March or April,” said our source “30 games starting in October. One home and one away versus each team. Full NHL style games with 20 minute periods.”
They also confirmed to us that there is a larger scale league embodiment in the works – more of the structure of the Canadian Hockey League.
MacKenzie has told us in previous interviews he’d been in talks with rinks and prospective owners in Pennsylvania, and it sounds like from the source close to him, this is becoming more concrete. The Commissioner has apparently been handling contacts from as far up the coast as Maine, and westward to Minnesota – where he’s expressed great interest in the past.
According to Commissioner MacKenzie, a schedule release should be due up in the coming weeks.
Part of the efforts of MacKenzie include doing his and the leagues part to grow the legitimacy and appeal of the rinks the IHL will play in, for the community and for fans.
This has been especially evident with his work with Frasier, currently home to the USPHL’s Metro Jets. From a video board to increasing concession amenities to general improvements, MacKenzie has looked to make a real impact with his league’s homes.
During this hiatus as well, one of the future IHL teams – the Great Lakes Muskies – participated in a Toys for Tots charity game with the Michigan Sports Enterprise’s Honey Badgers team. In total, the commissioner, Muskies, and Badgers raised over $800, and donated seven boxes of toys.
This is just the building block of what will be the footprint and mission of the IHL – giving back to the community and working with local charities to bolster the community.
MacKenzie has teased at some different efforts he has considered for the coming year for how to donate, such as giving certain concession revenue to a different charity per every team. Though, nothing is in stone until it’s announced.
One thing is for certain though: the ambition and drive the IHL has shown, from its founder/Commissioner all the way down to those who’ve worked alongside him, makes this more than a pipe dream. While everything is speculation and gaslighting until the puck drops and the buck stops, there is serious work happening behind the scenes from a semi-pro league in Michigan.
If the assessments and anticipations prove true, all of the waiting for the inaugural season will prove to have been the wiser.
Now it’s just a matter of details.