Earlier in the off-season there was a big story about the FPHL possibly having another Battle Creek-type team joining the league for a potential 2020-21 season, but according to our sources close to the league, that team has been scrapped after the addition of the team in Fraser, Michigan.
While we don’t know all of the details of what went down with this team, here’s what we did know: The league had reportedly been eyeing cities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for its home rink, and reportedly had picked Richmond, Virginia to be the location for the team, and would have played its home games at SkateNation Plus just outside the city. That rink is owned by current Columbus River Dragons owner Jeff Croop, and is home to the USPHL’s Richmond Generals. It is…not a pro hockey sized or caliber rink.
According to multiple sources close to the FPHL, the team was voted on and approved for addition to the league back by league officials in June, but when the opportunity to add Fraser to the league popped up, basically, the league shifted everything from Richmond to Fraser, in hopes that the Richmond idea would just be forgotten. That, and because of the challenges the league would have had with 11 teams, either from a scheduling standpoint, or from having to try and find a 12th team. So eliminating a team that was set to play out of a rec rink became the most logical decision.
Richmond was also apparently an effort to try and act as sort of act as a middle ground on northern trips for Carolina and Columbus, as well as a nearby rival for Delaware, and would help cut down the number or trips to places like Elmira, Watertown, Danville or Port Huron. But the addition of Fraser becomes a big help to Port Huron, Danville, and Mentor, while still leaving the two southern teams on an island.
One thing that was never revealed, was who was attempting to put that team together, if it was a new ownership group, or a team like the Rumble Bees that would have been paid for by current owners. But again, with the addition of Fraser, who are set to go public with everything Tomorrow (August 6), the team went out the window.
Honestly, it’s the correct call by the FPHL to scrap this team and go all-in on Fraser, especially if the rumors about the start of the season getting pushed back are true. That would give Fraser basically a full off-season to market the team and just get things in order. Not to mention that Hockeyland in Fraser has a rink that is up to the standards of pro hockey.
In other FPHL news, the master schedule is set to be released next week after a number of work arounds that had been caused by the Richmond-Fraser flip flop. We mentioned this before, but according to a couple sources within the FPHL, the league is reportedly eyeing an early December start, which is in line with the SPHL and pretty much every other hockey league at this point.
The league will also reportedly be keeping last season’s divisional format, with the West now made up of Port Huron, Danville, Fraser, Columbus, and Carolina, with the East remaining the same with Watertown, Elmira, Danbury, Delaware, and Mentor.
One other note, is that because the league is likely facing a condensed schedule, at least in terms of timeframe, and because we don’t know how many games each team is slated for on the soon-to-be-released schedule, the FPHL is discussing a couple different playoff formats for this season due to the playoff window being shorter this season. Prior to COVID-19 wiping out last season’s playoffs, the league had planned to have the Top-4 teams from each division make the playoffs.