Pucks on thin ice

Brandon Pope — Sports Writer

Brandon Pope — Sports Writer

As many of you may have noticed recently, the Michigan Warriors, a North American Hockey League franchise based at Flint’s Perani Arena & Event Center, has been granted dormancy for the 2012-13 season. The reason for that is because the Warriors and Perani Arena are in the process of trying to run both companies under one business. Now, an agreement does not need to be reached in order for the Warriors to play next season, however, it could make for a very interesting summer.

The Warriors’ ultimate goal is to stay in Flint and operate under the same umbrella as its venue, but that doesn’t mean things can’t change in a split second. Warriors ownership has already stated that they’d be willing to sell or relocate the team if the right offer came along, but they are not currently shopping around. If the Warriors do not end up playing in Flint next season, they may have to wait another year before being granted re-entry into the league.

This development is especially interesting, considering that in recent months, a new professional circuit known as the Northern Professional Hockey League has shown their interest in putting together a Flint franchise. As the story with the Warriors began to develop, I noticed that the NPHL website no longer lists Flint as a prospective franchise location.

So I contacted league commissioner Chuck Harrison, who many of you may remember from his connection to the Lapeer Loggers of the All-American Hockey League. “There was very little interest from (Flint-area) fans,” stated Harrison. “The arena in Flint couldn’t tell us what the junior team was doing, even if they knew.”

If it weren’t for the Warriors’ currently undecided situation, pro hockey may have made its return to the area, but as for now, Harrison says that won’t happen.

“So we just decided not to pursue Flint at this time,” continued Harrison. If this alleged league does get off the ground, they are also interested in bringing back the AAHL as a feeder league. “The All- American Hockey League may look at (Flint),” added Harrison. “I have heard rumors, but I do not know for sure.”

With the Warriors as the lone active franchise in the area, it is the first time that pro hockey has not taken center stage within Genesee and Lapeer counties. The Warriors are a single A junior team in the

NAHL, who plays their home games in a market that has always been accustomed to having a pro team around. When one left, another would pop up.

When the original Generals left town for Saginaw in 1985, the International Hockey League granted Flint a new franchise, the Flint Spirits, who were the top minor-league affiliate of the New York Rangers. When they fled, the old barn sat empty for a year before the Flint Bulldogs joined the newly established Colonial Hockey League in the early 90’s.

After two unsuccessful seasons, the Bulldogs fled for Utica, NY, and the CHL gave Flint a new team in 1993, this one to be called the Generals. Early success led to sluggish performance and lowly attendance in their final seasons. When the Gens finally called it quits, Lapeer landed the Loggers of the All-American Hockey League. The Loggers lasted about half of a season, leaving a void in the hearts of area hockey enthusiasts.

If, and this is a big if, both new leagues do find their way into operation, who knows what will happen? With two leagues running together at the same time, that may give Flint another shot at pro hockey. It may also do the same for Lapeer. Again, this is mere speculation, but if both leagues can find a way to succeed, then maybe one day pro hockey will find its way back to Flint and Lapeer. But in reality, odds are neither of these leagues will ever drop a single puck. bpope@mihomepaper.com

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