REPORT: FHL appears to be the front-runner for Columbus; SPHL interest remains

At last update, it appeared that groups wanting a team in Columbus, Georgia to return the Southern Professional Hockey League had taken the lead over the Federal Hockey League for the market.

Well, around two weeks ago, Bus League Hockey was told by sources that the two ownership groups involved with wanting a team in the SPHL had pulled out of the race for Columbus, leaving two Federal Hockey League groups as the lone bidders vying for the market.

That same source told us at the time that the FHL was, “approximately at an 80 percent chance” to snag the market. Following that chat we were told to, “wait about a week” for more clarity on the matter as more details were potentially being ironed out.

Well, as of Tuesday night, our sources close to the happenings said that it appears as if the market will go to the FHL, citing the cheaper costs that come with a FHL team as the main reason that they have pulled to the front.

But, there does appear to be some hope that the SPHL could return, because according to multiple independent sources familiar with the hockey happenings in Columbus, one of the original SPHL groups that had bowed out, was back in the hunt for Columbus, reportedly after a new investor emerged and joined the group, just within the past couple of days.

In addition to the reports that the FHL appears to be back in the lead and closing in on securing the market, our sources have said that “well-known” FHL people could potentially make a move to the new team in Columbus, regardless of whatever league the city may end up getting.

So, what does this update mean? It still doesn’t mean that hockey is 100 percent back in the market (because we all know how quickly things can fall apart, or apparently come together), but it does mean that we’re slowly inching closer to professional hockey’s return to Columbus, and that the race for the market continues to be heated, with cheaper costs associated with the FHL giving them the lead.

Personally, we’re of the opinion that if all things were taken into account, it should probably return as a SPHL market. It’s in the heart of the league, and has plenty of teams nearby to make for rivalries and allow for weekend trips for fans, even with the much higher price tag that comes with the SPHL.

But, if for some reason the SPHL groups once again fail to secure the arena and the market, then there is absolutely no harm in letting the FHL come to town. Because Columbus will have had two swings at bringing back the SPHL (the failed Columbus Burn attempt in 2017), and hockey fans and the arena can only wait so long for that to happen when other groups appear to desperately want in.

The other question that comes up if market does in fact go with the FHL: Is there more FHL expansion in the south on the way? Because as we’ve noted before, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to add just one team in the south, especially when that one team would be roughly seven hours away from the only other southern team in the league, and a dozen or so hours from every other team in the north. It would be a TON of travel for a team, even in a league as cheap as the FHL.

Bus League Hockey has once again reached out to officials at the Columbus Civic Center for comment on the matter, and will update this story if any substantial information is provided.

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