The owner has been looking at other leagues secondary to several legal disputes between the franchise and the CHL, but nothing has come out as of yet to indicate a move to another league, at least for next season.
Washington can not stand the CHL, and even held up a sign tonight that said REFS SUCK, and at the same time signaling the Holding Sign, only worse; which is not the nicest thing to signal to the refs.
Washington is pushing for the ECHL. So we shall see if he gets in... He has tried all season long to reach a deal, we will find out in the coming weeks.
YOUNGSTOWN Following the SteelHounds season-ending loss Friday at the Chevrolet Centre, owner Herb Washington said he intends to send a team onto the ice this fall.
For now, hes not exactly certain what league the SteelHounds will be a member of for 2008-09.
In all likelihood, its going to be CHL [Central Hockey League], Washington said after the SteelHounds lost 1-0 to the Colorado Eagles in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series. The CHL voted a union in, the players voted a union in I dont know that is going to affect things for next year. That vote was recently taken so we have to see what takes place.
At this point, we are proceeding [that we] will be playing in the CHL next season.
Asked what would be the ideal situation for Washingtons team, the owner responded, Less travel.
The SteelHounds have been members of the CHL for three seasons. Most of the teams in the league are in Texas and its neighboring states.
Youngstown is the only CHL team in the Eastern Time Zone. The team closest to the SteelHounds is the Mississippi RiverKings who are based not far from Memphis, Tenn.
Its definitely grueling, said SteelHounds coach Kevin Kaminski whose team set a CHL road record with 19 victories. Our guys were road warriors. The guys found a way [to win].
The CHLs parent corporation is Global Entertainment, the former manager of the Chevrolet Centre. Last fall, Global and the city of Youngstown agreed to dissolve the management contract.
Last fall, Washington said he had made inquiries about joining the ECHL (another Double A hockey league formerly called the East Coast Hockey League).
The ECHL has teams across the country but the eastern teams dont play western squads during the regular season.
Among the nearby cities with ECHL teams are: Wheeling, W. Va.; Johnston, Pa.; Dayton; and Cincinnati. Toledo will return to the ECHL in 2009.
Kaminski estimated the SteelHounds could save $200,000 by switching.
Thats a huge difference for the owner, Kaminski said. And youre home a lot more with your family.
Another possibility is the International Hockey League, formerly known as the United Hockey League.
The six-team IHL has teams in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. In 2007, the UHL had 10 teams before two folded and one joined the ECHL.
In June 2007, the CHL and UHL explored merging, a sequence that would have given Youngstown rivals much closer to Ohio. But merger talks collapsed.
Washington was careful not to mention the ECHL when questioned about changing leagues.
We need less travel, Washington said. If we could get in, we would jump at the opportunity.
Before the SteelHounds could switch, the CHL owners would need to release the team from its league commitment. Anything is possible now that Global no longer has a presence here.
Both the league and Washington say they have unresolved money issues.
They would probably be happy to let me go, Washington said.
The CHL provides money to the teams who travel to Youngstown so the league would save thousands of dollars if the SteelHounds were released.
Washington suggested that the deadline for announcing a move would be February.
But the CHL owners will gather in early June for league meetings. The schedule for next fall is finalized after those meetings end.
Washington said hes very pleased with the results Kaminski has achieved in earning two playoff appearances.
This season, the SteelHounds went 39-20-5 for 83 points, the fourth-best record in the league.
Im very proud of how our team has improved and [with] the competitiveness of our team, Washington said. The product is a very good product. Im extremely pleased with how out guys have played and the job that the coach has done.
By going 5-1 down the stretch against the Laredo Bucks (Southeast Division winner) and Eagles (Northwest Division winner), the SteelHounds earned the third playoff seed.
But even though they had more points than Colorado, the Eagles had home-ice advantage in the series.
The SteelHounds couldnt hold a 4-2 lead in Game 1 in Colorado, losing 6-4. They lost the next two games (5-0, 4-1) before rebounding for a 5-2 win in Game 4.
Next year, we will bring you a championship in whatever league were in, Washington told fans following the 1-0 loss on Friday.
Every season, weve gotten better. We will continue to do that because of the kind of coach we have and the kind of team [we] will put on the ice.
I just as that you bring one more person with you next season when you come to the games, Washington said.
Washington spoke to the team following the loss. Captain Chris Richards said Washington didnt enlighten us on whats going on for next year.
He thanked us for the good year, saying he was proud of the way we played, the way we hustled.
The attendance was low for a couple of reasons; the big one was this:
1. Competing head to head with local high school basketball games, including tournament games.
But remember, tentatively, the NAHL Phantoms are merging with the Steelhounds, that is 1000-1200 additional season ticket holders/fans that could come to the games. The goal for the Hounds next year should be to get 4000+ to the games... That is definitely possible considering the merger that should take place.
I assume you were at the last game in Youngstown also since you mentioned the sign that Herb Washington was holding up, and his speech at the end of the game. It was a good game, but an unfortunate loss.
I was there and I was glad that Washington addressed the fans, because they are in fact selling season tickets for next season. I'm ready to renew my tickets for '08/'09, but I wanted some type of reassurance as to what level of play will be in place before I renew, regardless of which league. And it appears at the moment that the league will be the CHL. I would be happy with any of the three "AA" leagues, although for the financial health of the team, I agree that it would only make sense for Youngstown to be in the ECHL or the IHL because of the travel issues. Time will tell.
And I still wonder if there is any possibility of a merger between the CHL and the IHL. There's been a lot of discussion amongst the fans on sites like this, but I've never seen any official comments from the leagues. Is anyone aware if there ever has been any actual discussions between the leagues?
The IHL would do just that and make travel a lot easier for the Hounds.. Keep your fingers crossed it will be the ECHL man!
The CHL and IHL were working on a deal last year, it fell through at the last hour. From my understanding the IHL walked away from the table. I have it on pretty good authority that the CHL will not approach the IHL again, however they would be open to discussions if the IHL approached them. It would be a bonus for both leagues I think. The six teams or so in the IHL hae to be tired of playing the same teams over and over again.