Hey, for a change of pace I've had nothing really to write on in the off season which means no bad news. Other than an assistant coach heading to a NCAA D1 job, it's been a pretty uneventful off season. That doesn't mean there isn't stuff going on. There has been a lot of coaching turnover this year, but that's pretty normal.
The Musketeer's are on their third stint with Luke Strand as a head coach, his fifth go as the head of a USHL bench, having coached in Green Bay and Madison as well. I know a lot of people there aren't too happy, last time he bailed to coach in Madison only to be run out of there. Hey, at least they know what they're getting into.
The Des Moines Buccaneers are center of a little rumor about the league taking over at least some of the teams operations. That seems pretty awkward, since the same people own the arena. A lot of people have thought the team was heading downhill fast and the ownership had something to do with this. And by that I mean Gil Peled, who seemingly bought the team to put his son Ami Peled on the roster. Ami played a pair of season and in 99 games had 1 goal, 12 assists and posted a combined +/- of -34 before going on to play 9 games of D3 NCAA hockey. Yeah, buying a team and the arena is a good idea but not if it's just to get your kid ice time. It's been a few years since Ami played and things have gone progressively downhill. The arena was a dump then and needs a whole lot of work done or maybe just another arena. This ain't happening under the Peled regime. Rumors have sprung up every year about a sale or something but this season looks a little different. Let's hope it is just a rumor since this would not bode well for the Bucs and Des Moines is a city that deserves better.
While we're talking nepotism and arenas that make landfills look like NHL rinks, let's move on to Madison. The Capitals are moving to a 'more intimate' facility. I won't accuse Ryan Suter of running the team to give his family ice time and jobs, the Suter family name is pretty much a solid resume in itself. That didn't stop him from eventually putting a relative in as head coach, the fourth HC in 2 years, and an assistant coach last season and a defenseman to boot. Things haven't worked out well and the popular rumor is they want out of Madison. With possible locations in Racine and Oshkosh possibly coming, as well as rumors of USHL teams coming to other cities. In the emantime, with just a couple months before the season start they decide to move to a 'new' venue. And by new, it was built in the 1960s. Last season it was the Chicago Steel and a lot of people laughed at their move but Fox Valley Arena looks like the Covelli compared to this.
Bleacher seating anyone? If you paid for season tickets it's probably time to start asking about a reimbursement or refund. They say it'll seat 3,500 people but I have a hard time seeing that many people fitting in the building yet alone the bleachers. They say it'll need some work to meet USHL standards and I assume that includes demolition. Seriously, where is the league? But at least they're saving some money.
On to the last train wreck. I saved the best for last. Sure the Bloomington Thunder still have an arena that looks slightly better than a local high school but they're struggling in just about every other aspect. It looked like they were selling off the team last season in a fire sale and were probably planning to fold. Rumor has it they tired their best and failed. And while it's just rumors and you'll never hear anything official, I've heard from multiple credible sources they just submitted the paperwork too late and the league isn't letting them off the hook for the season. Well, with such excellent management you would have to expect things will be running great this season. Things actually didn't seem that bad until recently when an interesting bit about a possible name change came out. Yes people, let me introduce you to the Central Illinois Flying Aces. Let that sink in... the Central Illinois Flying Aces. With less than a month from main camps, about a month to preseason and less than 6 weeks to the drop of the puck on the 2017-2018 season they are rebranding the team. And nothing rolls off the tongue like the Central Illinois Flying Aces. I would just throw this in the rumors of dumb stuff bin but I've seen at least 2 USHL teams changing their schedule to reflect the name change. I don't know what the logic here really is but there isn't a lot of time to get the rink changed, merchandise redone, etc. I think the point is to fail as hard as possible this season so the league won't even care about paperwork, they'll want the team gone and forgotten about.
Yes Phantoms fans, you can really count your blessings this year. It wasn't too long ago we heard yearly rumors about losing the arena and moving the team. We've had some recent disappointments with players being poached and some turnover behind the bench but at least we're looking stable this season.