It’s something hockey leagues strive to find and achieve, even after years of trying, just ask the folks behind the Federal Hockey League, who nearly a decade in and with five strong teams, find themselves often the butt of whatever jokes hockey fans want to make.
Starting a new hockey league from out of nowhere isn’t easy, in fact it’s nearly impossible if you go look at the graveyard of failed hockey league’s across the country. It takes time, money, knowledge of the sport, knowledge of how to run a business, knowledge of how to market your product, and a lot of luck.
Last week Wednesday the upstart Interstate Hockey League, a Senior League based in Michigan that attempted to launch last fall with six teams, but wisely decided to hit the reset button and try again in fall of 2019 after issues in the form of team and player uncertainty, and a league founder passing away, got all of the above items in a major announcement that one of minor and junior hockey’s most provocative minds was now in the fold.
That announcement was that Carolina Thunderbirds President and General Manager Scott Brand would be helping the league as a special adviser and consultant to the league. To be clear, Brand is not leaving the Thunderbirds or the FHL (yet anyways), but is doing this on the side to help IHL Commisioner Drake MacKenzie.
“Very honored to be asked to be part of this opportunity,” Brand said on the league’s Facebook page. I heard about the concept of the league and this sounds like a well though out idea. I look forward to the contributing to the success of this league.”
Even with the plan to relaunch this fall, now with double the teams (12), and East and West divisions, the addition of Brand is the biggest announcement to date for the league, for all of the reasons we listed above.
Brand has seen nearly everything in his time in hockey, he officiated at a high level for years, was behind the scenes with a couple of teams in the top junior league in the country, the USHL, more recently has turned the Carolina Thunderbirds into the model franchise in the Federal Hockey League, and has garnered attention from around the hockey world with some of his ideas, including hybrid icing that we now see in every NHL game, and the pre-game shootout idea that lasted all of two games this season.
“To have someone with such and amazing background on board to assist me with learning and growing is absolutely huge to me,” MacKenzie said. “Especially so that the disorganization of last year doesn’t happen again.”
And that’s what makes this addition to the IHL so massive: There is very little Brand hasn’t seen or done in his time in hockey, so if a situation comes up that MacKenzie or others within the league haven’t dealt with before, Brand is there to lend and ear and advice on how best to go about navigating the waters.
But Brand’s potential impact on the league goes beyond just being a helping hand, or helping a young hockey mind in MacKenzie learn the ropes, like we said at the top of the post and in the title, it’s a major shot of legitimacy to the league, one that will likely be noticed by everyone from players to officials and others who may want to be involved with the league.
Maybe potential players, investors, or rinks had heard about the league, but also it’s struggles in launching this past fall and remain skeptical about if they want to dedicate their time and league, well, seeing a name like Scott Brand on-board will certainly help ease some of those concerns. Brand shows that the league is serious about its start this fall, and in its stated goal of giving people a high-quality place to play after juniors ends, or if pro teams in the FHL and SPHL find that they’re not quite ready for those levels.
Now, all this doesn’t mean that the league is a sure-fire, can’t-miss, ready to take on the world success, far from it. There’s still more than half a year until the first puck is scheduled to drop, and tons of stuff to be done in the meantime that will cause headaches and problems for the league.
But it sure doesn’t hurt going forward to have Brand waiting in the wings to help out if needed.