Junior A hockey nets approval
Junior A hockey is coming to Janesville.
The North American Hockey League granted conditional approval of Janesville’s proposed expansion franchise during a teleconference Tuesday.
“If we’re not in the end zone now, we’re on the goal line,” said Bill McCoshen of the Wisconsin Hockey Partners.
News of the league vote reached McCoshen about noon Tuesday.
“My plan for the next three weeks is to create a buzz around this team. The hockey community in Wisconsin has been watching this with great interest.
“I had to do this now with the league. I couldn’t wait until (the team’s application for a liquor license comes up for approval).”
The Janesville City Council already has approved the sale of beer and wine coolers at the Janesville Ice Skating Center. The council also has approved a plan to spend the $200,000 necessary to get the skating center up to NAHL standards
The $200,000 will include a locker room for the team and an expanded concession stand.
Tuesday’s conditional thumbs up by the NAHL puts the Janesville franchise on the fast track for a September start. WHP must pay a $200,000 expansion fee. Also coming up is the league’s draft, scheduled for May 21.
NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld said the remaining obstacles to the Janesville franchise include securing a lease at the skating center.
“We’ve reviewed the group,” Frankenfeld said. “They’re acceptable and like minded. They have the financial werewithal. They have a business plan.
“We think it’s an unbelievable group. They are going to create a good product in town. The market there is going to be perfect sized. They haven’t lost out on any players yet.”
McCoshen, in fact, already is into the process of building a roster. Each team in the league is allowed to issue contract tenders to eight players before the draft. Those eight players are automatically assigned to those teams. Expansion franchises get to offer seven additional tenders.
“Our goal is to put a competitive product on the ice,” McCoshen said.
“A lot of talented players have been following this process, this Janesville franchise. Once we turn the lights on, we won’t have a problem getting players. I plan to start offering tenders this weekend.”
McCoshen also hopes to attend the league’s season-ending Robertson Cup Tournament in Mason City, Iowa.
“I’d like to work a couple trades to get a couple veteran players,” McCoshen said.
McCoshen has already contacted a potential head coach, assistant coach and general manager. Announcements could come as early as next week as to who will be filling those positions for the as-yet-unnamed franchise. The Janesville team also will unveil a Web site next week.
WHP still has a handful of hurdles to overcome.
“We need to get them (the NAHL) a little more paperwork on their side. We need to execute a lease with the city,” McCoshen said. “But this is a big piece of the puzzle. We’re cautiously optimistic about the liquor license. That’s what I do in my day job (as a lobbyist). I think we’ve got the votes.”
“I haven’t taken anything for granted. I’ve been in front of the council four times. I appreciated the process the council has followed. We will try to do well by the community.”
McCoshen continued to allay fears that adult spectators will attend the games just to get drunk.
“People will go to the rink to watch a hockey game,” McCoshen said. “Beer is secondary. It’s not the reason they’re there. It is essential to our bottom. None of the teams (in the league) could make it financially without (alcohol sales). It’s crucial.”
McCoshen said the team plans to announce tryout dates in Janesville and Duluth, Minn.
A contest will also be held to determine the franchise’s nickname. Two names proposed by the Janesville Gazette have been chosen as finalists: The Janesville Jays and the Janesville Fighting 99.
McCoshen said a fan contest at the Web site will be used to name the team. He hopes to have a nickname before the league’s draft.
Junior hockey teams are made up of players age 20 and under as of Dec. 31. The principal purpose of the league is to develop and promote career advancement either in a collegiate program or a professional opportunity.
The NAHL, the only Tier II Junior A league in the country, provides a competitive opportunity for elite players on a nationwide basis.
The Janesville franchise would give the league 20 teams in four divisions spread out from Michigan to Texas to Alaska. Rejoining the league for the 2009-10 season is the Texas Tornadoes, a team which took a one-year break. The NAHL will lose a team run by the U.S. National Team.