(Photo: Monarch Photography / Watertown Wolves)
Honestly, maybe the most surprising thing revealed during the tirade of a weekend for the Federal Hockey League was the reveal of the apparent true name of the Single-A Professional Hockey League.
The…Federal Prospect Hockey League? Apparently, it’s true.
Per the logo of the league’s official media guide for the 2018-2019 season (right), the true name is actually the FPHL.
Now, wait just a minute.
In terms of sports, a “prospect” is typically not-yet considered a full professional, usually as deemed by a higher-league or club. More often than not, prospects will sit in a farm-league (Rookie Ball for MiLB, for example) and have not yet-attained rookie status.
However, the Federal Hockey League, by all-accounts is a fully-fledged PROFESSIONAL hockey league – by definition. Players sign contracts, can achieve veteran status, are free to move up-and-back-down the ladder to the Southern Professional Hockey League or ECHL as is available, and are paid for their talents. Teams are for-profit.
If this was a prospect league…who would they be prospecting for?
Something didn’t sit with me right when I first saw the “Federal Prospect Hockey League” name and logo. I knew I had seen it as the Federal PROFESSIONAL Hockey League before.
Wouldn’t you know it, of course I had – on the Federal Hockey League’s own Facebook page!
Since at least 2015 (per SportsLogos.net), the Federal Hockey League has actually been known as the Federal PROFESSIONAL Hockey League. This can be backtracked and confirmed by FHL teams and even the SPHL.
However, at some point during the turnover of the last season, the FPHL actually became re-branded as the Federal Prospect Hockey League.
Per Carolina Thunderbirds General Manager Scott Brand, the change was made “two years ago”.
The first mention that I can find publicly of the switch-over was actually in a partial Press Release from a Law Office based in Ithaca, New York on June 28, 2018, in which they successfully-obtained approval for P-1 Visas for “New Federal Hockey League Coaches”. In this short article, they refer to the coaches employer as the “Federal Prospect Hockey League, Inc.”, a SUBSIDIARY of the Federal Hockey League.
By legal accounts, the name of the league is the Federal Prospect Hockey League, but is still referred to and regarded rightly as – even in the article – a professional hockey league.
So the Federal Hockey League is it’s own branch, that now by court-legal accounts has two confirmed subsidiaries – the apparent Federal Prospect Hockey League (the FHL as it is, currently), and the still-owners of the Watertown Wolves “IDHL, LLC.”.
Now, while the IDHL or International Developmental Hockey League (formed in 2017) has never had a registered season, their website and ownership of the Wolves retains. Andrew “Sarge” Richards – the FHL’s Vice-Commissioner – is still listed as the Commissioner of the “league”.
For those who may remember the league’s launch and short “existence”, it was created to work as a feeder, prospect league for the FHL – outright saying it in its About Page. They also list that they remain owners of the FHL Wolves.
What remains in question, is why the Federal Hockey League would create a subsidiary of itself for the league that it currently is. The FHL “Holding Company” now has two subsidiaries registered-and-listed as theirs in the FPHL and the IDHL.
The Federal Hockey League still refers to the Single-A professional hockey league, but is correctly and professionally-labeled as the Federal Prospect Hockey League.
Brand says that the league is still “The FHL (Federal Prospect Hockey League, LLC.)” and is “just Corporate tax stuff”.
It appears to be much ado about nothing, but covertly re-branding an eight-year organization and incorporating it in a legal process is something that deserves a watchful-eye on. Especially when the league does officially come forward.