Pro hockey league to play game at Connellsville's Ice Mine
Professional hockey is coming to the Connellsville area.
The Ice Mine, located in Leisenring, will host a Federal Hockey League regular-season game between the Watertown (N.Y.) Privateers and the Danville (Ill.) Dashers at 7:05 p.m. March 22.
Although the visit will be for just one evening, there is a chance that Connellsville will become a permanent home for an FHL team. The league is looking to expand.
“Hockey is really growing in this area, and there is a lot of demand for it,” said Tom Kinsey, a representative of Scottdale Bank & Trust Co., which owns the Ice Mine. “We'd like to bring a pro team here.”
The FHL is in its fourth season and comprises four teams. The Danbury (Conn.) Whalers and the Dayton (Ohio) Demonz are the other two league teams. Those two teams are scheduled to play a neutral-site game in Winston-Salem, N.C., on March 1.
According to FHL commissioner Andrew Richards, Connellsville and Winston-Salem are possible expansion locations. He noted that the league would like to expand to six teams as early as next season.
Richards also said Connellsville, and specifically the Ice Mine, have a lot of variables that could attract a team.
“We've found that you definitely have a lot of flexibility in a smaller building, and there is plenty of seating,” Richards said. “That's the things were looking for in future expansion.”
The Ice Mine is home to several teams and organizations, including the Ice Miners, which is a program comprising five youth teams in various divisions. The Connellsville high school and middle school hockey teams play there as does Washington & Jefferson.
Richards believes that locating a team in Connellsville could give local players a chance to play pro hockey.
“There are a lot of players in and around the Pittsburgh area that could play in a league like this,” Richards said.
The FHL comprises many players who have played college or junior hockey and are hoping to climb the professional ranks.
“These players work hard,” Richards said.
According to Richards, getting local sponsorship for a team in the league would be a critical step in the expansion process but so would attendance figures. That's where the neutral-site game between the Privateers and the Dashers will come into play.
“The numbers will say a lot,” Richards said, pointing out that 500 fans say one thing but 1,500 fans say something else. “We're looking for favorable sites that could be expansion spots, and the fact that we are doing this gives us a chance to showcase our product and get feedback.”
Richards said if the league does decide to expand, locations would have to be finalized by the end of June so that there is ample time for schedules to be compiled. The league's season begins with training camps in October.
Kinsey noted that in addition to the FHL teams that will be featured as part of the neutral-site game, the Ice Miners also will play a part of the evening's festivities. Many members of the Ice Miners youth teams will take part in on-ice contests during the first and second intermissions.
General admission tickets for the game are $10 or $8 for groups of 20 or more. For tickets, call 724-626-4423. For more information on the FHL and the neutral-site game, email firstname.lastname@example.org.