Welcome back to Port Huron, professional hockey.
A steady stream of onlookers flowed into the McMorran Memorial Room Thursday as Port Huron’s newest professional hockey franchise was announced.
A feeling of excitement could be felt in the air as new owner Barry Soskin, 57, of Arlington Heights, IL; spoke of his vision and new five year agreement with McMorran Arena to bring a Federal Hockey League team to Port Huron.
“I didn’t want to go into a market and have the fans think we were going to be 1-and-done,” said Soskin, who owns a sporting goods store and gun range in Illinois. “They proposed a three year lease — I wanted to show people that I plan on being here for a while and a five year lease was the minimum I wanted to deal with.”
In the next month, Soskin said he hopes to name the team and also find a coach to run it. At the team’s new website http://www.porthuronhockey.com you can submit your own suggestions for what the team should be called.
The Port Huron team will be the third team Soskin owns in the FHL. In addition to the new Port Huron franchise, Soskin also owns the Danville Dashers and the Dayton Demonz.
The FHL played a neutral site game at McMorran on Jan. 31 that drew over 1,700 fans featuring Danville and the Danbury Whalers. The fan support stemming from the game excited the FHL and allowed commissioner Don Kirnan to really hone in on Port Huron.
He hopes to see his league expand to seven or eight teams by October, when the 56 game season begins.
“This is an owner that has owned professional teams for 20 years,” said Kirnan, who started the league in 2009. “Most situations that don’t last very long are with inexperienced ownership.
“We have done select games in four or five places to try to gauge community interest. Obviously it was a win for everyone here. We were delighted with what was here and it worked out very well.”
McMorran General Manager Rob Churchill helped secure the deal after Port Huron went without a hockey team this past season for the first time since 1995. The FHL however will be somewhat different from the North American Hockey League.
The league will feature young veterans that are already removed from playing juniors and college hockey and could be overall, more well rounded players.
“This owner has been around 25 years in this game,” Churchill said. “He understands the value of entertainment. In the past, it was just a hockey game. We need the entertainment that goes with it.
“I definitely think the federal hockey league is a rough, tough type league. We kind of knew that minor professional hockey was the route we wanted to go. In the past pro hockey teams had a lot of older guys. You will see a lot of young guys.”
Contact Joseph Hayes at (810) 989-6268 or at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @jhayes1136.