I wanted to throw my two cents in on this thread. I had a long phone conversation with league officials. I did so for two reasons. First, the Buffalo Wings are always looking into new "pro" leagues in our efforts to restart our pro team. Second, because of this, we have been making efforts to start our own "pro" league based in the Great Lakes region and I wanted to see if we were going to conflict with the NARHL or if we could work together. After talking to league officials and reading as much as I could about the new league, I have formed several opinions.
First, I feel they have the best chance of any recent start-up league to succeed. I've heard a lot about how successful the Marple Gladiators have been and because the NARHL officials come from that organization, they should do very well and will instantly command a higher degree of respect than if anyone else was involved. It appears, on the surface, that they will be using a pretty sound business model, but I can't say for sure because I haven't received all the details yet. Also, they will fill a void when and if last rights are ever given to MLRH-AAA.
With that said, here are my concerns, and they're minor ones. First, when I talked to league officials, they were more concerned with telling me about the bells and whistles. I found out all about their graphics arts department and all the posters and banners I was going to receive but I didn't get too much information on hardcore issues like referees and how certain expenses were going to be covered. Also who some of the other franchises were and who their owners were (although it did appear that most of the teams signing up were former MLRH-AAA teams). From my past experiences in the old pro leagues, this was the kind of information I was looking for as a prospective new member of their league.
Second, I'm a little concerned about them calling themselves a "pro" league. Again, without having received any detailed information from the league yet, I can only speculate, but it appears that most of the players will not be getting paid. There is a $10k prize for the winning team, but every other team that doesn't win gets nothing. And if you think about it, $10k for a 16 game season and a 20 man roster (max) works out to $500 per player for the entire season for the winning team (it could obviously be more if you have less players on your roster). Now, the fact that teams have the option of paying their players is a disaster waiting to happen. Yes, you'll get a team that would become the Yankees of roller hockey but that kind of thing will distroy the league. Many new leagues (and some established leagues) are becoming "single entity leagues" or are establishing a salary cap to control player salaries. Although there is prize money involved and the players have the ability to get paid and therefore the league is technically a "pro" league, I believe people are thinking it will be a traditional pro league and I don't feel that it is. As I said before, it is a minor concern and it's probably a result of my background and from getting burned so many times before in the past.
With that said and before anyone jumps down my throat, I am supporting the new league. It sounds like to me (without having received any further information yet) that they have the building blocks to establish a foundation for success. As long as they do what they say and don't promise things they can't deliver, they'll do alright. There is definitely a need for a league at that level (semi-pro or AAA or whatever), especially in that region. The Buffalo Wings will not be joining the NARHL for the coming season by mutual consent. In order for the league to keep expenses down, they are accepting teams within a 2-3 hour driving distance. Because most of the teams already signed-up are in the tri-state area (NY, NJ, PA) and Atlantic coast (DC, MD, VA) the Wings fall outside that area.
That is why the Wings have been in the process of forming a similar type of league in the Great Lakes region. I have been working on this throughout the summer. When I just heard about NARHL, my iniitial reaction was "good", save me the trouble and the Wings will just join the NARHL. But when I found about their scope and intial geographic area, I decided to continue with my efforts to form our own league.
The new league is tentatively called Inline Hockey America and will be the elite division of the Great Lakes Inline Hockey Association. The GLIHA will be an association of regional amateur roller hockey leagues similar to the Wings league. I am looking to establish the GLIHA with up to 8 cities. The cities I am targeting are Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Grand Rapids and Toronto. Once an amateur roller hockey league joins the Association, then they will form an elite team to compete in Inline Hockey America. This league will feature the best of the best and will play by traditional pro rules (checking, fighting, four quarters, offsides, etc.) and will not be called a pro league because I don't anticipate the players being paid per game in the first year, although there is the thought to offer prize money from a pool where all players receive a percentage based on their performance throughout the season. We anticipate a 14 game season (each team plays the other twice) and would play during the summer. We are hoping that by requiring that each IHA team be a part of an established amateur roller hockey organization, then they will automatically have a solid foundation to build off of. There will be the financial support from the house leagues and each individual amatuer league can use their IHA team as incentive to promote the house leagues and develop their own home-grown stars of the future. My hope is for the IHA to grow to become the new "pro" league (in a more traditional sense) that everyone has been asking for. I definitely think that there is a place for both the IHA and the NARHL.
As you can see, there are some difference between the NARHL and the IHA. I don't believe the two will conflict and we have already established a line of mutual cooperation. An official announcement hasn't been made about the GLIHA or IHA because I am still working out the details. The GLIHA and IHA are being starting and operated by the Buffalo Wings with myself being the lead person in this so hopefully our reputation will give us a higher level if respect just as the Marple Gladiators are doing for the NARHL. The Buffalo Wings is not creating the GLIHA or the IHA to make money. We are doing this first to establish a vehicle for cooperation among other similar amateur roller hockeys leagues in our geographic area and to form a new elite league for the Wings to compete in with the hopes that it becomes a new "pro" league. If anyone would like to know more about the Great Lakes Inline Hockey Association and Inline Hockey America you can contact me directly at [email protected]
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