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TcFlint

St. Clair Shores, MI to FHL

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TcFlint

St. Clair Shores, MI is the newest team in the Federal Hockey League. This is a suburb of Detroit on the shores of Lake St. Clair. Population about 59,000.

 

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/2016/05/10/federal-hockey-league-st-clair-shores/84169420/

 

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minor life

Train wreck in the making for several reasons.

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TcFlint

I am not even sure if they can get 1,000 in the building. Not sold on the FHL, but they keep surviving.

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kwey24

If Dave Debol is going to be the head coach, that's a nice snag by this FHL team.

 

I definitely hope they can upgrade the arena somehow. It'd be small by Central States Collegiate Hockey League standards as is. Heck, most of the arenas in the Great Lakes Collegiate Hockey League seat more.

 

There's A LOT of hockey in Detroit. If the team is able to field a roster heavy on Detroit area players, it'd potentially give them the nucleus of a dedicated fan base to get things started with. This shouldn't go as poorly as the Twin City Steel (which was doomed when it was the SWPA Magic), but we may see attendance as weak as Brewster this last season. This new team will need some more backing (Kid Rock?) to be able to absorb the losses.

 

I do think that the FHL has a future in the Detroit area eventually, but I always thought it would happen after markets like Kalamazoo and Muskegon had nowhere to go but the FHL and joined. We'll see if Flint ever joins. It definitely would be handy for the FHL to have a fourth team in the Midwest/Great Lakes to start a division. The FHL desperately needs two divisions to make travel more manageable.

 

At least this is being announced in May and not later...

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double_d

Could SCS be on the move?

 

They played a neutral site game in Battle Creek two weeks ago. No they're playing in Kingsville, Ontario on Thursday versus Danville.

 

http://www.federalhockey.com/stats#/182/game/89329/preview?season_id=473

 

Being last in the league standings, and last in attendance, the future of the FHL in SCS looks dark......

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Mr Ricochet

Could SCS be on the move?

 

They played a neutral site game in Battle Creek two weeks ago. No they're playing in Kingsville, Ontario on Thursday versus Danville.

 

http://www.federalhockey.com/stats#/182/game/89329/preview?season_id=473

 

Being last in the league standings, and last in attendance, the future of the FHL in SCS looks dark......

 

 

Hopefully one of the sharp ones will reply, dd............... Do you go to Saints games? If so rate the league for me and I'm assuming you were a Fury fan. .....How close is SCS to Muskegon? IIRC very close.

 

Curious, have you been to the USHL Lumberjacks at all? If so tell me what you think.

 

I'm a fan of low pro, don't know what draws me but I like it.

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hydrogyrum

St Clair Shores is on the east side of Michigan, i.e. ghetto-land. Outside the purview of the Lumberjacks. Even the "national team" has moved outside of this area.

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kwey24

St. Clair Shores is located north of Detroit a bit (in the metro).

 

The Battle Creek neutral site game did not draw well. The pictures St. Clair Shores posted of the game the showed the stands were embarrassing. I don't know what weather was that day, but...Battle Creek does not appear to be a likely location for an FHL team. In reality, I don't know how it could be with the NA3HL team there. If the Wolves still occupy all the space the Revolution did, there's not really any extra space to house a second team out of The Rink. If the Saints were to move to Battle Creek, I'm sure it'd draw better than it did for the neutral site game and better than it draws in St. Clair Shores, but I don't think it'd actually surpass Berlin (which typically packs its tiny rink). If the Wolves changed rinks and no longer inhabited The Rink, you could do worse than Battle Creek.

 

Kingsville, Ontario: Home of the Greater Metro Hockey League's Kingsville Kings. I can't imagine they'd average a ton of fans in Kingsville. There's just so much hockey in Ontario anywhere between Windsor and the Toronto area that I just don't think an FHL team would work out there. If I had to pick between Battle Creek and Kingsville, I'd pick Battle Creek.

 

If I had to pick between Troy, Ohio, and Battle Creek, I'd pick Troy, Ohio (said not knowing whether Hobart Arena would offer itself up for such). Hobart recently completed millions in renovations, though, and you could put on a solid FHL game there. Dayton has no options for hockey (its curtains for Hara) and Troy is about as close as you'd be able to get. Troy would start somewhat slow like the Danville Dashers did; but, over time, you could probably draw similar to the Danville Dashers if the team were well-run and had on-ice success.

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Mr Ricochet

Hara is being torn down? ........ Kwey, has the FHL instituted rules to limit fighting as the SPHL has?

 

Is Battle Creek in the rumor mill? They had a run at A Pro with the AAHL(?) maybe 5 years back and that didn't work out.

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kwey24

The FHL hasn't cracked down to the degree that the SPHL has, but they've gotten fairly harsh with the different levels of game misconducts, suspensions, and fines. Considering how little FHL players are paid, you could see a lot of your earnings for the season eaten up in fines and they've cracked down the last couple seasons on not allowing players to play who have not paid fines (even small fines). The gongshow aspect of the FHL is just working itself out of the game. You can thank Danville. They don't have a fighter this year, their PIMs are way down, and they're winning (well, not recently, recently). Danville is going to finish the season averaging only a bit above 11 PIMs per game (unless things go sideways this weekend). That's college hockey numbers.

 

Battle Creek is obviously in the rumor mill a bit; but, I just don't see how it can be real serious. The Revolution averaged a few hundred fans per game; but, in today's FHL, that really isn't very much. To me, the only way a team in Battle Creek has any chance is if the NA3HL team moves. It's not as if the Wolves are averaging that many fans, but The Rink can only really accommodate one tenant and Battle Creek can really only support one hockey team. In reality, I'd just wait for Kalamazoo to open up...

 

At current, the FHL needs to do everything it can to try and get Elmira, New York.

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Mr Ricochet

The FHL hasn't cracked down to the degree that the SPHL has, but they've gotten fairly harsh with the different levels of game misconducts, suspensions, and fines. Considering how little FHL players are paid, you could see a lot of your earnings for the season eaten up in fines and they've cracked down the last couple seasons on not allowing players to play who have not paid fines (even small fines). The gongshow aspect of the FHL is just working itself out of the game. You can thank Danville. They don't have a fighter this year, their PIMs are way down, and they're winning (well, not recently, recently). Danville is going to finish the season averaging only a bit above 11 PIMs per game (unless things go sideways this weekend). That's college hockey numbers.

 

Battle Creek is obviously in the rumor mill a bit; but, I just don't see how it can be real serious. The Revolution averaged a few hundred fans per game; but, in today's FHL, that really isn't very much. To me, the only way a team in Battle Creek has any chance is if the NA3HL team moves. It's not as if the Wolves are averaging that many fans, but The Rink can only really accommodate one tenant and Battle Creek can really only support one hockey team. In reality, I'd just wait for Kalamazoo to open up...

 

At current, the FHL needs to do everything it can to try and get Elmira, New York.

 

I see you mention Kalamazoo losing their ECHL entry often. Why do you think that will happen? Billionaire Johnstone still owns the club, no? Is he ready to get out of hockey?

 

Elmira? That venue a little big for an FHL club?

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minor life

Elmira is most likely or almost definitely going NAHL. Kalamazoo is a dead man walking for ECHL. Western Michigan is the team of choice for fans now. Hasnt been the same since the old IHL days.

Edited by minor life

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DetroitRocks

St Clair Shores is on the east side of Michigan, i.e. ghetto-land. Outside the purview of the Lumberjacks. Even the "national team" has moved outside of this area.

 

Ghetto land? Nice post, you sound pretty bright. The NTDP plays in suburban Detroit so maybe you should get a map. Ghetto land produces more hockey players than most areas in the United States so maybe it isn't all "ghetto".

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kwey24

Certainly, all of the Detroit metro area isn't a ghetto and all of Macomb County isn't a ghetto, but it's not the 60's or 70's anymore (when the county experienced colossal growth), either. There aren't people clamoring to move to Warren, Sterling Heights, and St. Clair Shores these days. Certainly, it's much better off than most of Detroit proper, but these are suburbs past their prime. I could list off some suburbs in the Twin Cities in a similar predicament, or Chicago, or St. Louis. Even in my area of Des Moines, Urbandale is experiencing a slow decline as the money moves to Ankeny, Johnston, and Waukee (West Des Moines has reached its zenith and is at the very beginning of a decline in my opinion, too (West Des Moines will, eventually, remind me a lot of Bloomington, Minnesota). Very few people with money are choosing to live in Des Moines proper. There are suburbs in Chicago and the Twin Cities and, to a lesser degree, Detroit, that I could compare this, too (Twin Cities examples would be the closest for my area).

 

Macomb County is known for having an aged population. Many of the the cities have seen population decreases since the 1980's. We used to see a somewhat steady stream of NHLers and NHL prospects out of Macomb County and there are occasionally some, but it's not like it once was when things were booming in the late 50's, and the 60's, and with some carryover into the 70's. There are folks here who I'm sure could start listing off old players born in the 50's, 60's, and 70's in the area that went on to NHL careers or were NHL prospects. With the proximity of the Red Wings, you're going to need an actual arena to garner much attention. Yes, there is Fraser Hockeyland and its Monster Arena (many of you probably know it as the Great Lakes Sports Center and the particular sheet as Superior Arena). That's an FHL caliber arena. It's a multi-sheet facility that hosts Belle Tire's program and the Metro Jets of the NA3HL. There had been other attempts at Low A hockey at Fraser, but none were as organized as the Fighting Saints. That said, getting ice time at Monster Arena for games with the Metro Jets there would be problematic now, I suspect. It'd definitely be pricier than St. Clair Shores. I doubt Fraser Hockeyland would trade out a pay-to-play team like the Metro Jets for an FHL team. The only way it'd even be considered is if someone with considerable stature and money wanted to bring a Federal Hockey League team there for some reason. It'd draw better than the Metro Jets and you probably could duplicate the Danville Dashers' numbers over time; but, you'd have to find the right owner to pull it off and be willing to lose six figures a year for the love of Single-A hockey. That first year, even with an operation on par with the better FHL organizations, you'd probably be looking at 550 to 600 per game (kind of like Danville did that first year). Yes, Danville is the only real game in town in the winter; but, the demographics in Macomb County are such that some people would adopt the team as their second favorite in the metro (behind the Red Wings), especially if you could stack the team with a lot of kids with Detroit ties (which you could pull off with some ease).

 

I'll give the Fighting Saints credit. This effort is far, far better than a lot of what we've seen for Single-A hockey in Detroit (Detroit Dragons, for instance) or around Michigan the last 15 years. It's also better than a lot of what we've seen in the early years of the FHL. It's a tough go for St. Clair Shores, though. It doesn't have the buzz like Berlin has in its tiny arena (only thing in the area) and it certainly isn't on par with Danville, Danbury, Port Huron, and Watertown. These neutral site games are happening for a reason.

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minor life

There are several key factors why A hockey will not survive in the metro regions of Michigan. First and foremost is the cost of media buys. Teams simply do not have the budgets to purchase the exposure they need. Danville is not Detroit or Detroit suburbs. Even with declining population, Detroit is still a major market. That major market also has the NHL, USHL, down the road you have the ECHL in Toledo, and across the bridge the OHL. Not to mention HS, midget and all the other levels of hockey where people can buy a ticket or sponsorship. Detroit for A level hockey is financial suicide.

 

Just because an area produces good hockey players does not mean it can support financially driven hockey. The NAHL couldnt make it in this state, and the USHL is hanging on by a thread. The ECHL is an afterthought, and the AHL is not getting the support it once was.

 

A level hockey is an extreme niche' business. It is extreme because it has an even smaller appeal than junior hockey. I could go on for quite some time as to why and how I come to this assessment. It takes a very specific market, to make it work. None of those markets are available in Michigan now, and those market demographics are also changing with time.

 

I go back to my statement last May. A train wreck for several reasons.

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Mr Ricochet

Cmon ML..............Muskegon and Kalamazoo are no fit for hockey? ......And that Mechanic team in Fraser (?) 15 yrs ago did well for a while.

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minor life

Rico, 5 years ago demographics are not the same as today. This is the biggest problem with people in minor pro, they think the past has a major influence on the present and that could not be further from the truth. Kalamazoo is a dead market now that people have discovered that the Broncos are the team that produces NHL players, not the Wings. Wings used to in the old IHL, but this is not the old IHL and ECHL players are long shots. NCAA players are not long shots and people know how good the hockey is.

 

Muskegon would have done better in the ECHL than the USHL, but Muskegon demographics are not what they were 5 or 10 years ago. The old hockey fan is no longer living in Muskegon in many cases. They move away, die, or find other interests. The FHL could do well there initially, but not for more than 2 or 3 years.

 

Eventually business models have to change with the changing consumer. These markets have changed and the product, along with presentation has not. People arent buying it any more.

 

This is not a fan view, this is a business view. So from a business standpoint, you ask, if I had to bet my life savings on success of this franchise in a certain market, are you willing to gamble it? If you wont put your life savings in it, chances are a common sense investor wont either.

Edited by minor life

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Mr Ricochet

But Kzoo doesn't have a common sense investor. And I agree, and mentioned a month ago, there is a new feel and fan at Jack games. Lotta young people and black people too.

 

And most fans don't go to a minor pro game cuz they think the players might become NHL players. Kzoo fans go to be entertained at a helluva throwback arena. Do you think Jack fans left the U-18 vs Jacks shootout the other night talking about who will be in the NHL or that it was one helluva game? No, an incredible hockey game, period!

 

Of course things change but what doesn't is the lure of the sport. The best thing jr or minor pro have going for it is price. If you're a hockey fan in Kzoo with 2-3 kids you going to a Kwings game for 15 a ticket or the Red (Army) Wings for 100 a pop???

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minor life

They may not have left the game talking about the future NHL players, but that is what got them there. Musky has marketed well this year with their two sure thin NHL future players and a few real possibilities.

 

Kzoo, has been a dead market for a few years. Event entertainment marketing, as was the chic phrase a few years ago, is a dead concept. People want to see prospects. Why do you think every top junior league has a top prospects game now? Old barns have no allure to a young fan. New high tech buildings do. That nonsensical investor wont live forever either.

 

This isn't a statement on what I like or enjoy watching. It is a statement on the business. I don't have to make the statement though because all the number prove it out.

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Mr Ricochet

Ok, ML...........What got them there and brought them back are two different things.

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kwey24

While being able to watch future NHLers is a factor in many fans' considerations, it's certainly not all fans.

 

For instance, Peoria has had AHL and IHL hockey within the last 30 years. They've even had ECHL hockey. They currently have an SPHL team. Despite the fact they have almost no chance of seeing a future NHLer (Scott Darling notwithstanding), over 4,000 fans per game still go and watch this SPHL hockey. All sorts of ECHL markets average over 4,000 fans per game. Is this because all of their fanbases are too stupid to know good hockey (particularly in the age of the internet)? Not at all. Many of them are former AHL markets. A good number of SPHL markets average over 2,500 fans per game. Huntsville Havoc fans have the Nashville Predators just over an hour away and they have UAH there, too (alma mater of Cam Talbot), yet 4,500 a game watch the Havoc. So much of Huntsville is northern transplants, too. This isn't the 1980's anymore--NHL hockey is no longer a secret to anyone. We can all watch it anytime we want on satellite TV. Yet, so many still go to AHL, ECHL, and SPHL games, and smaller numbers to FHL games.

 

We can even boil this down to Tier III junior hockey. The North Iowa Bulls average close to 1,000 fans per game in their old arena for NA3HL hockey. They've had USHL hockey under 20 years ago and NAHL hockey for part of the 2000's. They are averaging more fans now with the NA3HL team than the NAHL and basically doing as good as they ever did with the USHL team. There are multiple factors for this; but, what it proves is that the future potential of the players does not automatically determine fan interest. North Iowa fans are in the heart of USHL country. They've had a USHL team. They know the level of hockey they play. Yet, they still love it.

 

There are people out there who just love to watch a good hockey game or bring the family out to a good hockey game. From the NHL down to the FHL, from NCAA DI, NCAA DIII, and upper half ACHA D1, and from the USHL on down to many of the Tier III junior leagues, there is good, entertaining hockey to be watched.

 

I don't say all of this to infer that FHL hockey in Michigan is easy money. Not at all. It's going to be break even at best; but, that's the story for almost all of the USHL these days, most of the NAHL, and much of minor league hockey. A lot of NHL teams lose money. Owning a sports franchise is not just about making money to these owners, especially at the minor league and Tier I and Tier II junior levels. It's about competition, a love of hockey, and oftentimes a love of community. Many of the owners are willing to lose six figures a year just to compete and provide exciting hockey to their community.

 

Lastly, you don't need media buys to attract crowds. With social media these days and direct community engagement, you can eliminate the middle man (newspaper, TV, radio). Iowa State Cyclone Hockey has stopped advertising with the student newspaper, the local newspaper, and the athletic department events. We've retained advertising with a local radio station (great deal) and one specific local publication. We're saving tens of thousands of dollars (and redirecting that manpower to social media). Our attendance has gone up (a lot) while our ad buys have gone down. How have we done this? Social media, word of mouth, community engagement, and winning. We're not even able to serve alcohol in our arena and we've managed to dramatically increase our attendance while decreasing advertising. So, not being able to afford ad buys doesn't have to be curtains for an FHL team, either. Redirect the money you'd spend on expensive ad buys to a good community relations/public relations person and a good director of communications/social media person and hit the community and the internet with your players and you'll eventually do okay. Start including your sponsors into your internet and social media presence in creatives ways and you'll do even better. Treat your hockey team as a marketing company (both for your organization and your sponsors) doing business as a hockey team, and you'll do okay.

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minor life

You cant compare Peoria to Michigan. You are comparing markets that are so completely different from one another you can not draw straight lines of similarity. How much HS and AAA hockey is in North Iowa? When your competition is more than an hour away you have no competition. St Clair Shores to down town Detroit is less than 20 miles. You are comparing apples to basketballs.

 

If you think for one second that you don't need media buys in a market like Detroit, you have not experienced the competition for hockey dollars in Detroit. Your Iowa State costs are no where near what the costs would be in Detroit. AHL Rockford and Chicago spend a ton of money just to keep people coming in for cheap tickets. Then again, AHL teams, many of them manage the arena they play in and earn revenue off of the other events in the arena. They can stand to offset the losses of the teams.

 

So much more goes into developing a team than simply looking at population, income and the popularity of the sport. The old reasons many went to games are that. Old reasons. Old tactics of business building are old tactics. Everything on the off ice side of things has evolved so much that it doesn't even resemble what things were even 5 years ago.

 

If you had a half million to either put into an IRA, or you have to spend all of it on a hockey team in one of these markets, what are you doing? The old days are gone concerning minor pro owners willing to lose money. Even long time SPHL owners in Columbus wont take on more losses.

 

I recently spent three days out west doing a site plan inspection and interview on a prospective owner for an existing league. That included interviewing the owner, prospective coaches, and talking to local business leaders. It included financial investigations beyond simply having someone write a check for the franchise fee. Consumer investigations, building trends, purchasing trends, entertainment competition, media costs, and roughly fifty other items were worked on. And that was for my initial report. That does not even include a rough outline of how or if to move forward. That was simply a fact finding mission.

 

From the outside, the FHL looks like it would be fun to own a team. Grass roots and high intensity. I love that stuff. But am I or are other people lining up to lose a hundred thousand a year to do it? Thanks, but I would rather donate money to Hockey Fights Cancer.

Edited by minor life

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Mr Ricochet

While being able to watch future NHLers is a factor in many fans' considerations, it's certainly not all fans.

 

.

 

 

 

There are people out there who just love to watch a good hockey game or bring the family out to a good hockey game. From the NHL down to the FHL, from NCAA DI, NCAA DIII, and upper half ACHA D1, and from the USHL on down to many of the Tier III junior leagues, there is good, entertaining hockey to be watched.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The whole post is solid, as always, and this can be argued till the cows come home but the above is my point. "Most" people want to see a good hockey game and I'd add be able to afford it and still pay the light bill, no matter the level. In fact I think this type of fan outweighs the fan who will only go to see a game if there are players who "might" make it to the NHL 80% to 20%. #1 they want to see competitive hockey and just as important to most be able to realistically afford it.

 

Those who think they are above seeing players who won't make it to the NHL are not really informed or intelligent hockey fans now are they? They think they are seeing only good competitive hockey seeing NHL or AHL hockey but go ask ANY NHL player, or person who draws an NHL paycheck, if that's true.

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Mr Ricochet

You cant compare Peoria to Michigan. You are comparing markets that are so completely different from one another you can not draw straight lines of similarity. How much HS and AAA hockey is in North Iowa? When your competition is more than an hour away you have no competition. St Clair Shores to down town Detroit is less than 20 miles. You are comparing apples to basketballs.

 

 

 

 

You're moving the target. The topic was will people go to hockey games that don't have any players, or few, that have a chance at the NHL.

 

Your assertion that people who can only afford 15-20 bucks a ticket don't want a low tech old arena is off too. Same as a guy who goes to McDonalds expecting fine dining.

 

Ok so your full of research data, ML. That's wonderful. Go out on a smoke deck and talk to a dude missing 3 teeth cuz he can't afford a dentist, has 3 kids, a wife and wants to see solid hockey. There are more of those than not. Does your apples to basketballs algorithms enter that into your equation or is that old data?

 

Respectfully one doesn't need a $50,000 algorithm to know drawing fans to A pro 25 miles from an NHL arena is unlikely.

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minor life

Rico, I will respectfully disagree that it is the lower income demographic that supports this brand of hockey. While it certainly accounts for some of it. Teams can not survive on $10 tickets. Look at USHL ticket prices and that's easy to see. Research shows fewer people in that demographic are going to games every year.

 

Why did hockey originally work in Evansville? This is before the dumb ass owner screwed things up. It worked because the research was done. It worked because for more than a year the ground work was laid. This is exactly the grass roots effort story everyone hopes for.

 

When did it start to fail? It started to fail when they all assumed too much. They assumed they could continue to grow it beyond what the demographics said could be done. They assumed a field of dreams approach. People thought they knew what was going to happen, when not once was any indication given that Evansville would consistently support more than 3000 PAID fans a night, taking into account week night games. Coupled with the lease, there was never a break even scenario in the new arena.

 

There are market caps in every hockey market. The NHL ignored the cap in Atlanta. They continue to ignore it in Florida. The market cap in Elmira has long been ignored. Same with Albany, and they just lost the AHL.

 

If my accountant tells me not to buy the Mc Mansion, I am not going to ignore him and buy it simply because I can get approved for it. Can and should are two different things. The same principal can be applied to minor pro investing.

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