In a shocking twist given some of the updates that the Pro Hockey Return to Memphis page had been posting of late, things turned sour quickly, and late Tuesday night it was confirmed to BLH by that Facebook page and sources within the Federal Prospects Hockey League that the hopes of a team playing in Memphis/Southaven are dead for the coming season.
As of last week in a conversation with the Memphis page, they had said they were hoping to make an announcement soon, and said they had things pretty much ironed out for the first season, but were still working out the kinks on subsequent seasons. Then shared as much just four days ago with this post on the page:
That all got flipped on its head late Tuesday night, when we got this note from Sarge Richards, the Vice Commissioner of the FPHL, and someone who you might say is a pretty good source when it comes to these matters:
That prompted us to reach back out to the Memphis page, who confirmed that it was true, and that they were stopping their efforts to put a team in Landers Center.
Here was our brief exchange with the page.
The page then officially announced the news on their Facebook page this morning, with this announcement:
The lack of Fridays and Saturdays is tough, but not entirely unexpected. Once the arena added the Memphis Hustle of the NBA G League, everything else has played second fiddle, and that was certainly going to be the case with a fifth-tier professional hockey team. And if you can’t get prime home dates, or enough Friday and Saturday dates, then you’re facing an uphill battle from the start, especially in a league like the FPHL where over 90 percent of your schedule is Friday and Saturday games.
In a statement to Bus League Hockey, the page operator and the man who would have owned the team, Andreas Johansson, had this to say about the efforts in Memphis coming to an end:
We worked really hard and were very confident we would be able to get a deal done…I want to thank Don Kirnan of the FPHL for his great support and guidance, and well as to the Landers Center for trying to make a deal work.
Also most of all, thank the great hockey fans of greater Memphis – they deserve a professional hockey team, and it’s heartbreaking not to be able to be the one to give it to them.
The lack of weekend dates was the deal breaker on our side, though we had a few things also left to iron out, especially for the subsequent seasons.
This announcement puts a big hole in the FPHL’s hopes of having 13 or 14 teams for the 2020-21 season, with just Bloomington officially on-board for next season, and questions about the viability and future of a couple teams being a hot button topic among FPHL fans.
But there is still roughly nine-and-a-half months until the puck would drop on a new season, and if the FPHL has taught us anything in the past, there’s almost no time too short for them to announce a new team, so there still very well could be more expansion on the way, even with Memphis/Southaven out of the picture.
While it’s a big blow to the Fed to lose a potentially massive market like Memphis/Southaven, it’s an even bigger blow to hockey fans in the Mid-South area, who have been without a team since the RiverKings folded at the end of the 2017-18 SPHL season, and seemed very excited about the possibility of a team, even if it wasn’t the SPHL, returning to the area.