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New FHL hockey franchise based in Rostraver

| Friday, July 4, 2014, 11:12 p.m.

The NHL draft wasn't the only draft of local interest last week, as the expansion Southwestern Pennsylvania Magic selected five players, including four local products, in the Federal Hockey League's second annual College/Junior Hockey Draft on June 25.

After drafting 12 additional unprotected Federal Hockey League players in a disbursement draft earlier in June, the Magic's inaugural roster stands at 17 as it gets set to begin training camp in late August.

Included in the Magic's recent selections were Pitt-Johnstown forwards Wayne David and three-year captain David Kutzer, along with Pitt-Greensburg forward Cody Sakman Staves and two-year CCAC captain Nick Cicolini.

“We did want to get a local flavor here, so that's why we decided to go ahead and draft everybody local except a goalie (Eric Vogel),” said Donn Hoffmann, Magic vice president and general manager.

Entering its fifth season, the five-team league features squads in Danbury, Conn.; Danville, Ill.; Dayton, Ohio; and Watertown, N.Y. One of six professional leagues in the country, the FHL has promoted more than 200 players to various other professional leagues. Players will receive pay, with the Magic permitted to spend no more than $5,500 per week.

“Most leagues fold within the first six months to two years so they've pretty much established themselves. … The league itself is pretty strong,” Hoffmann said of the FHL.

Perhaps the Magic's biggest asset will be head coach Rod Davidson, a veteran behind the bench and an Ontario native who has led prior teams, such as the CHL's Indianapolis Ice, to league titles.

“We were just blessed to get this coach. … His track record is just phenomenal as far as the way he approaches the game, his systems are great and I think he's going to be our secret weapon here,” Hoffmann said.

“All the other teams called and said the bottom line is you just gave your team instant credibility and you also gave the league a lot more credibility by hiring this guy.”

Drafted players have or will be receiving offers to attend training camp and the Magic are hearing from a large number of international players, some who will be attending training camp at the team's home rink, Rostraver Ice Garden. The Magic anticipate 45-60 players competing in tryouts, with the roster being cut down to 23 prior to the season's opening in October.

When an FHL game was played in Connellsville last season, Hoffman got the chance to speak with the league's commissioners and a mutual interest in bringing a team to the area was sparked.

The addition of the Magic to the FHL is a great sign for the league, according to Magic draftee Branden Parkhouse of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

“By adding a new team here, it's going to help with the travel,” said Parkhouse, formerly of the FHL's Watertown Privateers. “…And it's going to help fans be more involved in what's going on with their team as well because now they're going to be able to see different teams. … I think it's huge for the league and pro hockey itself.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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