Mat: For the FHL, a push in the wrong direction

The Federal Hockey League, it had a chance at looking like a quasi legit league this season.

Sure this year had it’s regular hiccups that has haunted its past with short rosters and issues with referees but it gained two new teams in Mentor and Elmira.

Heck, Elmira is a former freaking ECHL town with an arena that is anything but a rec center. Elmira had a legit owner in Robbie Nichols. Nichols played the game, was a Flyers draft pick and even won the Calder Cup with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1989. Nichols is also a co-owner of the local Elmira Pioneers baseball team.

The season rolled on, teams were doing well. The Carolina Thunderbirds were on fire on a seemingly endless win streak that the Enforcers made some bold promises about halting, which only ended in hurting their wallets & pride.

Well, this weekend the Thunderbirds and Enforcers squared off in what has become the standard game between these two rivals. Goals, hits, obscenities and bitter penalties.

The Saturday game saw Elmira’s Ahmed Mahfouz try to square off with Carolina goaltender Christian Pavlas, while penalties that were issued to Brandon Vuic for abuse of officials. The Enforcers yet again lost to the Thunderbirds 6-4.

Tempers were high going into Sundays events. The Enforcers amped these factoids up as selling features for the next game between the two foes.

Inexplicably Carolina decided to sign Coach André Niec to a “celebrity contract” so they could fill their roster for the game. Why they didn’t grab a beer leaguer and toss them in as a grocery stick (see Paul Bissonnette) on the bench is beyond me. Celebrity Contracts went the way of Roller Hockey International, extinct.

What’s next? Are you going to start “drafting” TV stars like David Boreanaz from the hit show Bones?

Then things turned ugly when part way through the first period Coach Niec scored a goal that was vehemently argued by the Enforcers.

The officials lost control of the game at that moment. But it was regained and the period ended without further incident. Many times in hockey at the end of a period coaches and officials can be seen talking about disagreements or sometimes it’s the team’s captain.

This is what should of happened. But that’s not even close to what did.

Now this is where it all gets murky. The first period ends, the officials go to leave the ice and….

According to witnesses a physical altercation occurred between Elmira Enforcers owner Robbie Nichols and a referee. Overheard during the games radio broadcast, Robbie Nichols two hand shoved the referee he was seen arguing with.

How this is even possible is beyond me. Owners are to be professionals at all times. They have a TON of game day duties that involves being within the community, ensuring that all aspects of the arena’s operations are running smoothly. Essentially he should have minimum time to be watching the game.

To have an owner come down and get into a verbal confrontation with ice officials is deplorable, but getting physical is beyond disgusting & leaves a horrific mark on your teams image, your fans & your community. This should have NEVER happened.

Mr. Nichols is a pro. He has played the game. He has operated hockey teams before, he’s a co-owner of a baseball team. This isn’t his first rodeo and he should feel ashamed of his actions.

For his actions and likely some of the things that happened on ice, the officials called it a day. Suspended the game. There is ZERO tolerance for abusing a referee.

So now you have paying fans that paid full fare for one period of hockey, and fans who pay to stream the game losing out as well. You also just lost a ton of game day revenue and more. All because you can’t find someone else to talk to the officials, appropriately.

Also, and back to Carolina and Coach Niec: Carolina NEVER should never dressed their Coach regardless of a roster situation, and especially when it’s an intense rivalry, that man is best suited behind the bench.

If you are trying to sell the whole “nobody else was available” story. Keep it. Because I guarantee you I could find a roster of players who were available to play for you instead of your Coach.

This whole incident could very well spell the end for the Federal Hockey League. You have to believe that heavy financial consequences are coming, and I know I am not alone in thinking that Mr.Nichols should be banned from games for the remainder of the season and playoffs if the league gets that far.

Just remember folks. This is the league that gave lifetime banishment to Jesse Felten and Matt Puntureri for faking a fight and sharing a beer. Neither touched a ref and the brass tacks worst thing they did was violate the liquor license for the building.

For right now, I’m willing to bet they are going to have a tough time finding officials for the remaining games this season. No officials. No hockey unless they have the players do it like the New Jersey Devils did back in the 80’s due to a snowstorm.

Time will tell the final outcome but I’d wager that it isn’t going to be pretty. Any shot at being thought of as a league on par with the SPHL or LNAH is gone.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. It’s a wise motto to follow.

Also, objects in the rearview mirror may seem closer than they are; The Interstate Hockey League is coming along and it isn’t looking like it will be a gong show.

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today in remembrance of the Federal…”.


5 thoughts on “Mat: For the FHL, a push in the wrong direction

  1. You realize that Elmira’s coach has dressed for multiple games as a celebrity player this year right? How you came to the conclusion that Andre dressing in this game is the issue is laughable.


    1. Wow. Childish much. My thoughts were reasonable actually. There is a ton of players out there they could of signed. Especially in a rivalry game. You want your Coach to get run into the boards? Nope. Didn’t think so. Next!


      1. Pardon me? Reasonable for who? Good luck getting anyone to travel last minute for an afternoon game on a sunday. Are they over salary cap? Can they afford to pay someone(which youd need to do to get people on short notice)? You’re throwing out these suggestions like you’ve never been around a hockey operation before. Also, who was Andre playing such a great deal and Clarke playing 5 different times not? Stop pretending like you know what youre talking about.


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