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Sunday, April 01, 2007

New Junior B League

Well, it's taken long enough, but a new league is on the map. The SWJHL will be taking the ice next season as a Junior B league based in Texas and Oklahoma. The league is starting out with eight teams split into two divisions. The West will feature Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa, and Santa Fe, while the East includes Oklahoma City, North Richland Hills, Houston, and Waco. The man behind the new league is Chris Perry, better known as the GM of the D1 ACHA program at the University of Oklahoma.

I had a chance to interview Chris over the phone Saturday while he was attending the Jr. B Nationals in Grand Rapids. Here was some of our conversation:
MF: First thing's first, this will be a USA Hockey certified league, correct?

CP: Absolutely. We feel that it is a necessary step, and it's a major reason why I am in Grand Rapids. We've filed our paperwork, and I am confident our plan will be approved by the Junior Council this summer.

MF: What is it about this operating model that makes the SWJHL special?

CP: The league is going to be centrally-owned by a group of private investors. We feel that central ownership is going to solve the tuition/scholarship controversy. All player tuition payments will be sent to the league office, then dispersed to the teams. Since the teams are owned by the league, each team's finances will be completely transparent, and there will be no scholarships.

MF: So why Junior B, why now, and why in Texoma?

CP: We felt it was the right time. With a number of current Junior B teams and leagues anticipated to move up to Tier III Junior A, there will be a need to fill that gap.

MF: Do you foresee moving to Tier III A yourselves?

CP: We've talked about it, but would like to get established first. You have to walk before you can run.

MF: Let's talk about these teams, starting with the West. You've got Santa Fe and three CHL markets. What is up out there?

CP: Santa Fe was available and the market is already familiar with junior hockey. We know their support of the Roadrunners wasn't sufficient, but it would be just fine for a Junior B team. Entering the three CHL markets was a strategic risk. All three are near the bottom in attendance. We felt that moving in now would acclimate the markets to junior hockey. In the event the CHL teams move or fold, the remaining fanbase would be more than enough for us, while also being more likely to accept and adopt the junior team.

MF: Sort of like El Paso, only without the hiatus?

CP: More or less.

MF: Would you like to see El Paso in your league?

CP: We've not been in contact with any WSHL teams. We'd like to stick to our operating plan.

MF: Looking at the East... Oklahoma City makes sense for you since you're already in town and have an existing relationship with the Blazers Ice Center. In North Richland Hills, I assume you're going to play in the smaller rink at Blue Line when it reopens. Houston has been long overdue to get junior hockey... but what about Waco?

CP: When the Wizards folded, their ice plant and boards were eventually shipped to Texarkana. We're going to acquire a new portable iceplant and boards for the Heart O' Texas Coliseum. Meanwhile, we are scouting locations for a new permanent one-sheet facility. When it's built we'll just transfer the boards and glass over. To answer the other question, Blue Line's timing could not have been better, and yes we'll play in NHL1, which seats about 800.

MF: Where else would you like to have gone, or are looking at for the future?

CP: We let College Station slip away. We just couldn't get a deal done there in time, and are still talking to them for 2008. With Santa Fe out west we'd like to add Albuquerque. In Texarkana we're exploring building a modest facility similar to what we want to do in Waco. We tried to get into San Angelo, but the lease terms were too high. We're also looking at Springdale, Arkansas.

MF: Joel Carver?

CP: Yes. Rogers is building a 9,000-seat arena and is expected to get a minor league team in 2008. This should jump start youth hockey in Northwest Arkansas and provide an excellent opportunity for us.

MF: Anything else you want to discuss?

CP: We've got three coaches signed. They have total buy-in into our model. Two others are in negotiations, and we're working on the other three. We'll be making some announcements soon.

MF: Is the coaching search why you're in Grand Rapids?

CP: I really can't comment. I don't want our appearance at Nationals to be a distraction for any of the teams. This is their time, not the SWJHL's.
Well, it's an interesting situation to be sure. Chris ducked the WSHL issue, not to mention the coaches, which I found interesting. I know there's been some thought in some leagues to centralize the tuition collection process, but not to the point of centralizing he entire league. Chris would also not discuss the league's investors, wishing to keep that for the league's official unveiling. In any case, it looks like it's an interesting day for junior hockey.

Comments on "New Junior B League"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:19 PM, April 01, 2007) : 

No scholarships! How about sponsorships? Can I get some to pay my bill?

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:28 PM, April 01, 2007) : 

That was CLASSIC! I've heard many rumors up here in GR, it was VERY Believable! I'm glad I clicked on the "interesting day" link. I suspect some readers may not and perpetuate the rumor!

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:33 PM, April 01, 2007) : 

laughing!!! ..no kidding (starting rumors) - maybe tomorrow remind everyone that it was April Fools. Good one Marc, you're BAD!

 

Blogger WCharles said ... (10:41 PM, April 01, 2007) : 

I was about to be completely gullible, and then I saw "Santa Fe" for the second time and a voice in my head started saying "Sid Finch." This wasn't quite that good, but it was good. LOL!

 

Blogger Marc Foster said ... (11:41 PM, April 01, 2007) : 

I'm glad most everyone enjoyed it. Based on the number of emails and phone calls I got, many folks didn't just take the bait, they swallowed the hook.

BTW, it was Sidd, short for Siddhartha... :)

 

Blogger WCharles said ... (12:05 AM, April 02, 2007) : 

I did know Mr. Finch's first name was Siddhartha, just forgot to add the other "d."

Do you think Hesse was a baseball fan?

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:55 AM, April 03, 2007) : 

The Denver Spurs logo was a nice touch. I would have thought you would have included Ft. Vancouver into the league as an ovious hint of the joke.

 

Blogger WCharles said ... (11:28 AM, April 03, 2007) : 

A Fort Vancouver reference certainly would have been obvious, but after reading through everything several times, I saw there were lots of obvious clues--and I still nearly fell for it.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (5:13 PM, April 03, 2007) : 

I heard Ron White defecated in his boxers when he read it.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:03 PM, April 03, 2007) : 

that's a good way to ruin your blog's credibility. nice going.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (9:07 PM, April 03, 2007) : 

Marc hasn't had credibility for years, most read it for the idiocy.

 

Blogger Marc Foster said ... (9:16 PM, April 03, 2007) : 

I sure hope you guys are enjoying the freedom to attack me anonymously.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:17 PM, April 05, 2007) : 

Dang it Mark, you got me too! The recycled Denver Spurs logo should have given it away. It's even funnier that people ridicule you for writing your blog. Funny how some people will lash out with anything when they have nothing of real substance to say.

 

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