The State of Vermont will get its first professional hockey team when the Federal Hockey League announces next week the addition of the Green Mountain Rock Crushers as an expansion team in 2011-12.
The professional team plans to play its home schedule at the new Ice Haus Arena, part of $13 million in improvements this year at the Jay Peak resort. Games would begin in October 2011.
A news conference with a formal announcement is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Jay Peak, according to Andy Makal, who will serve as general manager and also as the team representative on the FHL Board of Governors.
The two-year-old Single A league, which has six teams playing this winter, is looking to expand, Makal told the Burlington Free Press on Friday. The current teams are: the Rome (N.Y.) Frenzy, Cape Cod (Mass.) Barons, Danbury (Conn.) Whalers, the New York Aviators in Brooklyn, the Thousand Island Priviteers in Alexandria Bay, N.Y. and Awkwesasne Warriors in Canada.
Makal said the league currently plays a 60-game yearly schedule, but that number might be reduced slightly next year. He said the league hopes to have 8-10 teams in 2011-12.
He said the Rock Crushers plan to serve what he calls the "four pillars" of any successful hockey franchise: fans, corporate partners, players and community.
Makal said the team is projected to have a weekly payroll of under $5,000 a week and will look for community partnerships and sponsors to help support the team. He said the team will have probably 18-20 players and hopes to have a couple of Vermonters suited up for at least the local games.
He said the team will be community-oriented and knows that it will not overtake the University of Vermont, St. Michael's College or Division III college hockey.
Makal said the team hopes to draw fans from not only in Vermont, but lower Quebec and even New York State. He said hockey will also be a draw when the ski lifts are shut down and 2,000 to 5,000 people are looking for something to do at night.
The Ice Haus, which can accommodate about 800 fans, has a National Hockey League sized rink (85-by-200) with a heated cafe.
He said he expects the young players will be coming out of Division III hockey and lower Division I.
"There are hungry kids. It's not a beer league or a semi-pro league," Makal said. He said players will be looking to move to Double A hockey in the East Coast Hockey League or the Central Hockey League.