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Berlin River Drivers Suspend Operations

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Well, packing Notre Dame Arena proved insufficient, as the River Drivers are suspending operations:




No players from St. Clair Shores were taken by Carolina in the expansion draft, which makes me wonder about that team (not that we all haven't been wondering). Berlin got a lot more fans than St. Clair Shores and Berlin was essentially owned by its arena. It's not impossible that the FHL could add another team back (like how Cornwall was added really late last season); but, the hopes for two divisions may have been dashed for another season.


In reality, I wonder if Berlin could ever become part of the International Developmental Hockey League (IDHL) the FHL is forming. It's a little ways outside of the IDHL's current footprint; but, if you were looking to make the IDHL such that players only pay a nominal amount of tuition (to prevent them from being employees), Berlin could be a good spot. The Affordable Care Act allowing people to keep their children on their insurance until they're 26 actually ends up pretty important in the IDHL's model, too, I bet. As is, it's going to cost about $7,500 to play in the IDHL. A location like Berlin that could average a few hundred fans, especially if it keeps the River Driver name and look, and get some sponsors would help a team reduce the tuition a fair amount. North Adams (former home of the Berkshire Battalion) would be another location for such a team, in my estimation. There are other former Low A markets in the area that would be potential locations.


As things stand now, playing in the IDHL is basically going to be like playing Tier III hockey, only as a 21- to 23-year-old (and potentially older). It'll be interesting to see if the IDHL gets enough players to play and, if so, how many of them will be rich kids from Europe (the GMHL and WSHL are full of them). There are a number of Americans who pay a lot of money to travel to and play in New Zealand each summer--you could play a longer season in the IDHL for about the same price as it takes to play in New Zealand and travel to and from. The IDHL could have its place. There are a number of late-bloomers (or guys who start late) who need that extra year to really become an NCAA DIII or ACHA D1 prospects. Then, there will be others in the IDHL looking to work their way into the FHL.


What I really don't want to see is the IDHL to be a really, really expensive version of the Professional Development Hockey League (PDHL) from 10 years ago. The PDHL had a handful of teams that played out of the same arena in Baltimore. It was essentially a men's league. I don't say that to slam the folks involved in the PDHL, I just have higher hopes that the IDHL can have teams in multiple markets in the Northeast that average a few hundred fans per game. Over time, the IDHL concept could be spread to other areas to support FHL teams in those areas, but keeping IDHL divisions pretty compact.

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