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Trax Suspend Operation

April 13, 2005 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) - Macon Trax News Release

Macon Hockey Club, Inc., owners of the Macon Trax Hockey team announced this morning the suspension of operations effective April 15, 2005. Ownership of the Trax contacted the Southern Professional Hockey League Commissioner Mr. Tom Coolen in March to request the suspension of the team’s affiliation agreement with the league so as to preserve an opportunity for another possible ownership group to continue operating the franchise in Macon, should such an ownership group be found.

Says team President David Waronker, “On behalf of the Macon Trax I wish to thank the team staff, City of Macon, the fans, and the sponsors of Macon hockey for doing their best to support our team. In addition, I wish to thank the Board of Directors of the SPHL for providing all the economic and non-economic support they have given the team to assist the Trax throughout this season in hopes that a new ownership could be found for 2005-2006. There are 1000 solid fans in Macon who love hockey and love their team. Unfortunately, we have learned over the past 2-3 years that we need 2000 fans to survive.”

Waronker further states that there is no one to blame for the lack of success of the Trax. “Tommy Stewart and the players played their hearts out and provided a winning, exciting team. Team General Manager Joe Suk, Director of Operations, Russ Friedrichsen and the rest of the staff could not have worked any harder as they tried so hard to bring fans and sponsors to the team. The City of Macon provided us a very fair lease; probably the best lease in hockey, and Regina McDuffie and the City Council could not have helped us any more than they have. And team minority owner Tom Wheel put much of his personal resources, blood, sweat and tears into the team to try to make it a success. The fans that supported the game were amazing, and the team loves its fans more than the fans could ever realize. Bottom line is despite everyone’s best efforts, the team still loses over $225,000 per year and neither Tom nor I can afford to continue these losses.”

Prior to joining the SPHL, the Macon Trax began play three years ago as members of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. Its second year it played in the six team WHA2, where under the coaching expertise of Macon hockey legend Tommy Stewart the team went to the finals only to lose the best of three series to the WHA2 champion Jacksonville Barracudas. The Macon Trax, under the direction of Joe Suk, was also winner by a league Board of Directors 6-0 vote the WHA2 “Franchise of the Year” award, based on the team’s on ice and off ice professional performance.

“I never, ever wanted to own more than one hockey team, and that team was always known to be my hometown team in Central Florida. I just tried to make hockey a success in Macon. I did my best to assist the team financially, but despite my best efforts I just cannot go on any further. WE have tried since the end of last season to find new, local ownership, but nothing ever materialized. The Trax still have the right to one more year on its lease with the Macon Centreplex, but absent a miracle I do not see anyone stepping forward at this late date to assume responsibility for the team.” says Waronker.

Waronker states that he regrets that despite the efforts of team management and the coaches and players, we could not make a success of hockey in Macon. He also is upset that there is finger pointing at team staff, specifically team minority owner Tom Wheel. “It upsets me that Mr. Wheel took criticism for some of the difficult decisions he had to make in order to make sure that hockey survived through the end of the current season. All Mr. Wheel did was invest – and lose - a large portion of his family’s retirement nest egg because he loved the Trax and wanted to help the team survive any way possible. Without Mr. Wheel it is likely that the Trax would not have played hockey this season, and when I hear the abuse he has taken by some of the critics of his and the team actions it is infuriating” stated Waronker.

Team staff and many of the team players have all been offered positions with the Florida Seals, who resume play next season at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee Florida. The team office will be closed on April 15, 2005.

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