Why the Phantoms were sold
The plucky Phantoms minor-league hockey team had trouble earning profits in recent years as attendance dipped, and the franchise faced other economic issues.
The plucky Phantoms minor-league hockey team had trouble earning profits in recent years as attendance dipped, and the franchise faced other economic issues. The team needed a new ice arena, which would cost $60 million to $80 million. Meanwhile, the team hadn't found a critical mass of cable viewership because the franchise competed with the popular Flyers in the local television market, a sports media executive close to the situation said. The most pressing problem was the fact that the Phantoms' home, the famed Wachovia Spectrum, is expected to be torn down for a development of stores, clubs and hotels in 2010. Peter Luukko, president of Comcast-Spectacor, said yesterday a new ice arena would need public assistance and "there wasn't a local municipality prepared to spend that kind of money and we did not politic for it." The Phantoms' attendance slipped somewhat in recent years and a modest profit had become a small loss, Luukko said. Comcast-Spectacor announced last week that it had reached the agreement to sell the Phantoms franchise to the Brooks Group of Pittsburgh. It is not known where the team will move. Comcast-Spectacor, which owns the Flyers and 76ers, brought the Phantoms to Philadelphia in 1996, when the Flyers' and Sixers' new arena opened in South Philadelphia. The minor-league team put the Spectrum to use for about 40 nights a year. Other events in the Spectrum included the circus, concerts, college basketball and Kixx soccer. With an average ticket price of about $11, the Phantoms offered hockey fans a cheap alternative to the Flyers. Luukko said he was pleased with the Phantoms and he probably would have kept the team going for a few years in Philadelphia if it weren't for the Spectrum redevelopment. The Phantoms' sale is no reflection of Comcast's commitment to sports teams, Luukko said. Cable giant Comcast Corp. owns 75 percent of Comcast-Spectacor, and one of its key motivations for the investment is to control rights to Sixers and Flyers games. Comcast SportsNet showed just two or three Phantoms games a year. The cost to produce a professional sports game for television is $25,000 to $30,000, and the Phantoms did not generate the audience to recoup those costs through advertising, the sports-media executive said.
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Nationalities Throughout History
Lehigh Valley Phantoms Executive Staff
Hockey teams that no longer exist in Pennsylvania
Posted: January 3, 2024 | Last updated: January 3, 2024
(WHTM) – Pennsylvania is home to two successful NHL teams – the Pittsburgh Penguins who have five Stanley Cups and the Philadelphia Flyers who have two Stanley Cups. Pennsylvania is also where the winningest AHL team, the Hershey Bears, is located. The Bears own the most Calder Cups in AHL history with 12.
The hockey history in Pennsylvania is extensive. These are all the now-defunct Keystone State hockey teams.
Major Hockey Associations
National Hockey League
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1925-1930)
The Pittsburgh Pirates were just the third American-based NHL team named after the baseball team in Pittsburgh. Their first game was on Nov. 26, 1925, and they downed the Boston Bruins 2-1 in an away game. The first NHL game in Pittsburgh was held on Dec. 2, 1925, at Duquesne Gardens. The Pirates fell to the New York Americans in overtime 2-1. 8,200 fans attended the game with tickets costing $1.00.
After five seasons the Pirates were relocated to Philadelphia where they became the Quakers.
- Philadelphia Quakers (1930-1931)
The Quakers lasted just one season in Philadelphia. They finished with a 4-36-4 record for a .136 winning percentage, which was the lowest ever in NHL history. The record stayed until the Washington Capitals had a .131 winning percentage in the 1974-75 season. Philadelphia did not have another NHL team until the Flyers formed in 1967. The Flyers’ black, orange and white colors are a nod to the heritage of the Philadelphia Quakers who shared the same color scheme.
World Hockey Association
- Philadelphia Blazers (1972-1973)
The Blazers played their single season in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia Convention Hall and Civic Center. The Blazers were originally formed as the Miaami Screaming Eagles in 1972 but had to relocate before any games were played due to a lack of funding and playing area. The Blazers finished with a 38-40 record before relocating again to Vancouver.
Western Pennsylvania Hockey League
The Western Pennsylvania Hockey League was founded in 1896 and was active until 1909. It was based in Pittsburgh and was the first league to hire and trade players.
- Duquesne Athletic Club (1908-1909)
They only played one season but won the last-ever Western Pennsylvania Hockey League championship.
- Duquesne Country and Athletic Club (1895-1901)
The DC&AC played their first season at the Schenley Park Casino until a fire ruined it. They were paused with a 2-3 record. The DC&AC came back in 1898 and played at the Duquesne Gardens. They ended in 1901 when the whole DC&AC organization folded due to financial issues.
- Pittsburgh Athletic Club (1895-1904, 1907-1909)
The Pittsburgh Athletic Club was one of the first professional hockey clubs in Pittsburgh. The city built the Schenley Park Casino, which was home to the first artificial ice-making plant in North America. The WPHL revived for one season in 1907 after folding in 1904 but did not have a successful return.
- Pittsburgh Bankers (1899-1904, 1907-1909)
The Pittsburgh Bankers made history as they were a part of the first known trade involving professional hockey players. The Bankers earned regular season titles in the 1902-03 season and the 1907-08 season.
- Pittsburgh Keystones (1900-1904)
The Pittsburgh Keystones came from the Keystone Bicycle Club which decided to branch into hockey. Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Riley Hern began his pro hockey career with the Keysones in the 1901-02 season.
- Pittsburgh Lyceum (1907-1908)
The Lyceum folded after one season because they could not fortify a stable team of players. The WPHL ended up folding the following season.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (1907-1908)
The Pirates played one season and made one of the first reported trades of a professional hockey player.
- Pittsburgh Victorias (1902-1904)
The Victorias made the WPHL a four-league team. Hall of Famer and Stanley Cup winner Bruce Stuart got his professional start with the Victorias. Pittsburgh won the regular season title in 1903-04.
American Hockey League
- Erie Blades (1975-1982)
There were two professional hockey teams in Erie named the Blades and both played in the Erie County Field House. The Erie Blades won three Championships as part of the Northeastern Hockey League and were the first team to play in the North American Hockey League from 1975-1977. The second Erie Blades joined the American Hockey League ahead of the 1981-82 season. They moved on to Baltimore in 1982 and are now the Springfield Thunderbirds based in Massachusetts.
- Philadelphia Firebirds (1974-1979)
The Firebirds began in Philadelphia and moved on to Syracuse in 1979. They were part of the North American Hockey League from 1974-1977 before joining the AHL in 1977. They won the 1976 Championship in the NAHL.
- Philadelphia Arrowheads (1927-1935)
The Arrowheads played in the Canadian-American Hockey League starting out before becoming the Philadelphia Ramblers in 1935.
- Philadelphia Ramblers (1935-1941)
The Ramblers became affiliated with the New York Rangers in the National Hockey League in 1935. They were the 1936 Champions.
- Philadelphia Rockets (1941-1942)
The Ramblers became the Rockets in 1941 and played just one season. They finished with an 11-41-4 record. Another team called the Rockets formed in the American Hockey League from 1946-1949. They missed the playoffs every season of existence.
- Philadelphia Phantoms (1996-2009)
The Phantoms were fairly successful in Philadelphia where they won two Calder Cups. They became the Adirondack Phantoms in 2009 and since 2014 are located in Allentown Pennsylvania as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
- Pittsburgh Hornets (1936-1956, 1961-1967)
The Hornets evolved from the Detroit Olympics which were affiliated with the Red Wings in the NHL. The Olympics moved to Pittsburgh in 1936 and debuted with the International-American Hockey League. In 1940, that league became the American Hockey League. After disbanding in 1956, the Hornets re-emerged and played in the Civic Arena in 1961. They won their third Calder Cup in 1967 but stopped operations after that season again when the NHL’s Penguins took over the market.
East Coast Hockey League/ECHL
- Erie Panthers (1988-1996)
The Panthers were one of the inaugural teams of the East Coast Hockey League. They still hold 15 different records in the ECHL and are in the top five of 38 categories. They moved from Erie to Baton Rouge, becoming the Kingfish, in 1996. In 2004 they became the Victoria Salmon Kings before dissolving entirely in 2011.
- Johnstown Chiefs (1988-2010)
The Chiefs were formed in the All-American Hockey League in 1987 before moving to the East Coast Hockey League when the new league was formed. they played for 22 years in Johnstown before moving to Greenville in 2010. They operated as the Greenville Road Warriors until 2015 and are now the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
Eastern Hockey League
- Erie Blades
During the Erie Blades’ time in the Eastern Hockey League, they earned two regular season titles and the 1979-80 and the 1980-81 championship.
- Hershey B’ars (1932-1936)
The Hershey B’ars are the parent club of the now Hershey Bears. The B’ars formed in 1932 and underwent a name change to the Hershey Chocolate B’ars in 1933, which lasted just one year before they reverted to the B’ars. They became the Hershey Bears for the first time in 1936 but underwent one more name change before the “Bears” stuck.
- Hershey Cubs (1938-1939)
In 1938 the Bears, formerly the Bars, changed their name to the Hershey Cubs for one season. In 1938 the Cubs reverted back to the Hershey Bears , which the franchise still plays under today.
- Johnstown Bluebirds (1941-1942)
The Bluebirds played just one season in the Eastern Hockey League.
- Johnstown Jets (1950-1977)
The Jets won back-to-back EHL Championships for the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons. When the EHL folded, the Jets moved to the International Hockey League for two seasons.
- Johnstown Red Wings (1979-1980)
The Johnstown Red Wings were affiliated with the Adirondack Red Wings in the AHL during their short existence.
- Philadelphia Falcons (1942-1946, 1951-1952)
Later the Philadelphia Rockets in the American Hockey League, the Falcons played in the Eastern Hockey League for four seasons.
- Philadelphia Ramblers (1955-1964)
The Ramblers spent nine seasons in the Eastern Hockey League before relocating to New Jersey.
International Hockey League
- Pittsburgh Shamrocks (1935-1936)
The Shamrocks played their one season at Duquesne Garden and came in fourth in the West Division. They scored 137 goals, allowing 170.
- Pittsburgh Yellow Jackets (1915-1925, 1930-1932)
The first Yellow Jackets evolved into the Pittsburgh Pirates and then the Philadelphia Quakers in the NHL. The second installment of the Yellow Jackets played in the International Hockey League for two seasons. The third team was played in the Eastern Amateur Hockey League before the Yellow Jackets officially folded in 1937. The Yellow Jackets in the IHL played for just two seasons, going to the playoffs in their first season and missing playoffs in their final season.
Mid-Atlantic Hockey League
- Mon Valley Thunder (2007-2008)
The Valley Thunder were an inaugural team of the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League. They played in the Rostraver Ice Garden in Rostraver Township. They folded after the 2007-2008 season right before the league folded in September 2008.
- Valley Forge Freedom (2007-2008)
Played in Oaks, Pennsylvania for one season.
North American Hockey League
- Keystone Ice Miners (2014-2015)
The Ice Miners were a Junior A Tier II ice hockey team in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. They were founded in 2010 as the Port Huron Fighting Falcons before their move to Connellsville. In their sole season in Pennsylvania, they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
- Pittsburgh Forge (2001-2003)
The Forge played in Junior A Tier II out of Pittsburgh and was founded by Kevin Constantine who was a coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL. In their two seasons, they posted an 80-24-8 record. They won the 2002-03 Robertson Cup in the NAHL Championship.
Roller Hockey International
- Philadelphia Bulldogs (1994-1996)
The Bulldogs were an inline hockey team that was created in the 1994 Roller Hockey International expansion. They lasted two seasons.
- Pittsburgh Phantoms (1994)
The Phantoms were named after the “Steel Phantom” rollercoaster in Kennywood Park. When the rollercoaster was invented it was the tallest and fastest steel coaster in the world. They played their one season at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
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Lehigh Valley Phantoms
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, proud AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers, are a professional ice hockey team in the American Hockey League. Established in 1996, the Phantoms have captured two Calder Cup Championships (1998, 2005), two Conference Championships (1998, 2005), two Regular Season Titles (1996-97, 1997-98) and four Division Championships (1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2003-04).
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Phantoms, arena to spark rebirth in Lehigh Valley
by Bob Rotruck || AHL On The Beat Archive
It has been a long time in the making. The beginning of a new era for the Phantoms hockey team has fans in the Lehigh Valley itching to welcome the American Hockey League to the region.
Even though construction is ongoing and the fans are still six months away from seeing the debut of the brand new Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center, the excitement level is through the roof. And the region’s first ever professional hockey games are just around the corner.
The spectacular new building in downtown Allentown, Pa., will have a seating capacity of 8,700 for Lehigh Valley Phantoms games in the AHL and will be able to welcome over 10,000 customers for concerts as well as trade shows and other events. Anyone regularly passing by the construction site has been witness to the rapid progress being made by the 380-person construction crew as the project grows closer and closer to completion.
The opening date for the arena is drawing near. Last Thursday, the PPL Center officially announced that a concert with the Eagles on September 12 will be their first event to mark their official grand opening.
Shortly after that, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be off and running. And the sports fans of the area can’t wait. Season tickets for the Phantoms have been flying at an impressive clip. More than 3,000 full-season ticket packages have been sold already with fans signing up for three-year or five-year commitments. And there is a wait list of another 2,000 fans all ready to put their money down for mini-plans once the Phantoms open the selling on those.
“You talk to everybody and they just can’t wait for hockey to get here,” said Phantoms vice president of ticket sales Erik Hansen. “And they can’t wait for the arena to be completed and also for the other events.”
Beginning almost 24 months ago, Hansen was selling season-ticket commitments to fans who wanted to be among the first to get on board. This was before the team had even begun advertising in the area. If you were to order your season tickets today, you might not get your first preference.
“The seats are going very quickly,” Hansen said. “So many people are calling up now and want center ice and on an aisle… Don’t have that left. Glass seats… Don’t have that left. There’s not a bad seat in the house but some people are looking for something specific and we might not have it anymore. We sell more and more season tickets every day.”
The area is hungry and ready for its own hockey team. And there are also many Philadelphia Phantoms fans who are viewing the beginning of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ era as a return of the team to Pennsylvania, and that is true as well. The Philadelphia Phantoms began in 1996 as an expansion franchise and delighted fans at the Spectrum for 13 seasons, winning two Calder Cups while shattering a variety of the league’s attendance records.
When the announcement was made of the impending demolition of the Spectrum and that the 2008-09 season would be the team’s last there, in stepped brothers Rob and Jim Brooks. With big plans and lots of work to do, the new owners’ dream of bringing a grand venue to the Lehigh Valley — including a new hockey team — was finally taking off. But in a way, it was also just beginning.
First, they brought the Phantoms to Glens Falls, N.Y., to play as the Adirondack Phantoms for five seasons. The team set up shop in their new home in upstate New York at the same time all of the planning and development and construction of the PPL Center in Allentown was finding its stride.
The arrival of the Phantoms in Glens Falls gave the die-hard hockey community there an opportunity to show their love of the sport and their ability to support an AHL team again, even if they knew the arrangement was a temporary one.
Today, with the soon-to-be-completed $177-million venue in Allentown, the Phantoms will be close to the Philadelphia market again, just a little over an hour away from where they used to play at the Spectrum. But make no mistake, this is the Lehigh Valley’s team. There is a tangible anticipation and excitement in the air and everyone in Allentown and the surrounding communities is sensing it. That is not just about their own new team, but also for the spectacular new facility that is a major part of the rebuilding and rebranding of downtown Allentown.
“People are kind of walking around with a bit more pride and with their chests out a little bit more,” Hansen said. “It’s an attitude of being happy that we live in the Lehigh Valley and that this is our team. This is what we have. This is our product. This is what we represent.”
A project like this doesn’t just happen on a whim. It had actually been years in the making even before Rob and Jim Brooks purchased the Phantoms franchise in 2009.
“We started on this project about nine years ago, it’s going on 10 years actually,” Jim Brooks said. “It was actually more about putting a venue in the Lehigh Valley, one of these big, multi-purpose facilities. We knew that in order to have a venue we always had in the back of our mind that a hockey team would be great. After that it was figuring out what league would be the best fit.”
In fact, when the Brookses started analyzing their idea, they envisioned a team that would be going head-to-head against the Philadelphia Phantoms as well as the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Their hypothetical new Lehigh Valley team would be located perfectly in the middle of a triangle of some of the strongest franchises in the American Hockey League. They didn’t know what team they might eventually be able to bring to the Lehigh Valley, but they knew the location would be tailor-made for some killer rivalries.
Then, as the facility in the Lehigh Valley continued to gain momentum, the Brooks brothers were approached by the Philadelphia Flyers, who were contemplating closing the Spectrum and subsequently selling their AHL franchise.
It was pretty incredible how perfectly all of the pieces were falling into place.
“Not only did we have our team that we needed as our main tenant,” Jim Brooks said, “we had it in the greatest hockey rink outside the National Hockey League. We had an affiliation with the local market’s favorite NHL team. And not only that, we had existing brand identity coming from the Phantoms from their tenure in Philadelphia. It was definitely an easy decision.
“And having the Phantoms played a major role in being able to finalize the funding and everything that was needed for this arena.”
But this project has since taken on an even bigger life of its own. It’s not just about bringing a hockey team and a sparkling new venue to the region anymore. It is a part of a huge half-billion-dollar investment in the whole block which will also include an eight-story office building fully leased out to the Lehigh Valley Health Network, as well as a luxurious 180-room Renaissance hotel by Marriott.
“The focus of our vision has changed over these nine years,” Jim Brooks said. “Now it’s not just about the big multi-purpose venue. It’s about using the arena as the catalyst for the redevelopment of the third-largest city in the state. And to see the level of development in downtown Allentown is the most rewarding part of this project.”
But it’s the Lehigh Valley Phantoms who will be the primary tenant for the PPL Center. And the game experience and dazzling new building will certainly be something to behold. The state-of-the-art facility will be loaded with modern amenities and first-class touches everywhere you turn. Every seat is a padded, cloth seat. There will be 30 luxury and VIP suites, six upscale party suites, and over 1,000 club seats. Some of the suites will actually be at ice level and will include a parking space in the garage right on the other side of the door from where the fans will be enjoying the game. In the corner will be a 200-person bar area overlooking the game where a large gathering of fans can enjoy every Phantoms goal as well as their own party atmosphere. The main entrance will feature an open-concourse feel that Jim Brooks says is being modeled somewhat like Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
“It’s really taking a lot of today’s modern-style NHL facilities and condensing it into an American Hockey League venue,” Jim Brooks said.
The list continues of all the impressive touches and details of the arena experience. It’s not just about a hockey game at the PPL Center: Fans will find entertainment and fun everywhere they turn, and the fun isn’t just isolated to the inside of the building. On ground level running along a main retail district on Hamilton Street will be three restaurants that will be open to the public all year, not just on event days. That stretch will include a well-known cafe/bakery, a popular and huge sports-restaurant/bar franchise measuring 9,000 square feet, and a special-concept restaurant featuring coal-fired-oven pizza as part of a more upscale/casual dining experience.
It’s all coming and the area is ready. It has been virtually impossible for anyone in the region not to notice what must seem to them like a breakneck pace of the whole project. The corner of Seventh and Hamilton was a large block of mostly dirt and rubble about a year ago. Currently, that same block features big buildings with shiny new windows that almost look like they are ready to be occupied right now. It’s starting to take on the sparkle that will soon become a permanent feature of downtown Allentown.
“People are just so eager to come out and to get this building ready,” Hansen said. “They realize that it’s real now. Over the past year it’s been kind of like ‘the building that everyone’s talking about.’ But now you can actually see it. The windows are in. It’s here and people can’t wait.”
ANDREW GOLDMAN - DIRECTOR JUNIOR HOCKEY, BLACK BEAR SPORTS GROUP / PRESIDENT, YOUNGSTOWN PHANTOMS
The Youngstown Phantoms are pleased to introduce Andrew Goldman as our President. Mr. Goldman brings his love for the game of hockey, a wealth of business experience, and a strong commitment to northeastern Ohio as he joins the Youngstown Phantoms. As President of the club, Mr. Goldman places an emphasis on community engagement and expands the in-game experience for fans with cutting-edge promotions, entertainment, and family-friendly opportunities.
Previously Mr. Goldman served as the Managing Director of Cormony Development and has spent the past several years as the Project Manager of the Hercules Development Project, an adaptive reuse project in Canton, Ohio, that has recently added 125,000 square feet of multi-family residential to the city. Mr. Goldman worked closely with both government and community leaders on the project and brings his valuable collaborative experience to Youngstown where he looks forward to working with the local community. "We are thrilled to have Andrew join our team," said Co-Owner Murry Gunty. "Andrew brings deep connections to Northeastern Ohio coupled with a passion for the game of hockey that we think will help the Phantoms thrive going forward." Mr. Goldman has also been extremely active in the youth hockey community. He has coached several youth hockey teams since 2008 and considers hockey to be one of his strongest passions.
To contact Andrew, email him at [email protected]
KELSEY MORETON- SR. VICE PRESIDENT
Kelsey Moreton is joining the Youngstown Phantoms for her third season as our Sr. Vice President, overseeing aspects of marketing and sales. A lifelong resident of Youngstown, Ohio, Ms. Moreton graduated with her bachelor's degree in business administration from Youngstown State University in 2014. She obtained her Masters in Organizational Leadership in the Fall of 2021 from Trevecca Nazarene University Ms. Moreton and her family love the game of hockey and look forward to sharing their excitement with others in the upcoming seasons.
To contact Kelsey, email her at [email protected]
BRANDON DENNIS - DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
To contact Brandon, email him at [email protected]
TYRELL RODGERS - SALES EXECUTIVE
Tyrell is joining the Phantoms for his first season as a Sales Executive. He is excited to join the Phantoms sales team and is excited to get the 2023-2024 season started! To contact Tyrell, email him at [email protected]
MADELINE BEIGHT - SALES EXECUTIVE
Madeline is going into her fifth season with the Phantoms. Beight joined the sales team for the 2021-2022 season after being on the Promotion Team for the prior seasons. She is a current student at Youngstown State University majoring in Early Childhood Education. She is excited to be here another season and bring her love for hockey into her work!
To contact Madeline, email her at [email protected]
ANNA HUGHES - SALES EXECUTIVE
Anna joined the Phantoms for the 2022-2023 season as a Sales Executive. She is a current student at Youngstown State University majoring in Business Administration. She is excited about this opportunity and can not wait to get the season started!
To contact Anna, email her at [email protected]
KARTER KELLGREN - SALES INTERN
Karter joined the Phantoms for his first season with the Youngstown Phantoms. He is a current student at Youngstown State University majoring in Business Administration and also plays for the Yougstown State Football team. He is excited about the opportunity and learn more about Hockey!
To contact Karter, email him at [email protected]
KATIE MASUCCI - GRAPHIC DESIGN INTERN
Katie is joining the Phantoms for her first season as our graphic design intern. She is a current student at Youngstown State majoring in Graphic Design and plans to graduate in Spring of 2024. She is looking forward to the season and can't wait to show you her work. To contact Katie, email her at [email protected]
MATT LIPCSAK- BROADCASTER
Lipcsak is known as the voice of the Phantoms. Lipcsak joined the broadcasting team for the 2009-2010 season. He became the play-by-play broadcaster prior to the 2016-2017 season.
Originally from Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, he graduated from Riverside High School in 2004. After high school, Lipcsak attended Youngstown State University, graduating cum laude with a bachelor's degree in Telecom munication Studies in May 2009. Lipcsak no w lives in North Canton with his wife Amanda, their son Jonathan, and daughter Alexis.
To contact Matt, please email him at [email protected]
Ryan Scott is a Vice President of Black Bear Sports Group, Inc focused on acquisitions and facility operations. He previously held positions of Associate and Vice President for Blackstreet Capital Management and Blackstreet Capital Holdings where he focused on M&A and leveraged buyouts of distressed companies. Mr. Scott graduated from Williams College with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree in Political Science and Leadership Studies and captained the Varsity hockey team as a defenseman. Mr. Scott grew up skating on the outdoor ice rinks of Montana and competed at the high school, Junior "A" and NCAA levels and won a National Championship with the USHL's Omaha Lancers in 2008. In his free time, Mr. Scott enjoys staying on the ice coaching youth hockey, and playing in adult leagues in Maryland and Virginia.
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WEST MICHIGAN PHANTOMS HOCKEY
THE PHANTOM HISTORY STORY:
When it comes to recreational sports, rarely is there a team that is able to remain together for a long period of time. One of those rare occurrences is the success that the West Michigan Phantoms have enjoyed since the team began playing during September of 2002. While the first game under the Phantom banner did not occur until September 13, 2002, the group that origi ally made up the yellow and black dates back nearly three years prior. It started out as drop-in hockey at the Fun Spot in Muskegon. For nearly three years, every Sunday night would be a gathering place for a selected group of players to come and enjoy the game of hockey. The Fun Spot, now known as Jumpin' Jupiter Skating Center, created an indoor location for Muskegon area players to play in-line hockey. While the skating rink did not feature a scoreboard, did not feature a clock and did not feature a very competitive arsenal of talent, it was a location that allowed several friends the ability to play hockey and meet others. One of those friendships that was created was between Nate Tyler and Kevin Wootton. During the Fun Spot period, some of the players also played outdoor hockey at Seyferth's Park in Muskegon. During the Seyferth's battles, a group of neighborhood kids and adults would play against each other on the SportCourt rink. Art Dorsey, a Phantom Founding Father, was instrumental in developing a large group of Seyferth Regulars. Eventually, that group would see an increase in talent and that talent would be pooled together to create a team that would tangle with Ground Zero. Ground Zero was a group of high school students (mostly from Mona Shores), which played inline hockey as a team at Westwood Ranch in Grand Rapids. Despite the constant losses, the neighbor group would continue to battle and play hockey. Art Dorsey, Kevin Wootton, Randy Lawson, Keith Mooreman are just a few of those neighborhood kids and adults that use to be defeated by the likes of Gordie Anderson, Casey Rosenberg, Brett Smith, and the rest of Ground Zero team (also known as the Dragons in the earlier days).
Back at the Fun Spot, the condition of playing in-door hockey during the summer months always saw a dramatic fall in the amount of skaters showing up each week. During the Summer of 2002, that reduction in players would create less income for the roller skating rink and despite Fun Spot employees playing hockey, it was decided that all the work and time was not worth continuing hockey during the summer. The stoppage of Sunday hockey at the Fun Spot created a problem for those players that still wanted to play a somewhat organized brand of hockey. Under the organization from Art Dorsey and Kevin Wootton, the two found out about Rivertown Sports in Grandville and figured this would be the cure for the sudden loss of hockey. During the summer, the two contacted several former Fun Spot players and decided to create a team for the upcoming fall season at Rivertown Sports. Prior to the start of Rivertown hockey, Art Dorsey sealed an agreement with the L.C. Walker Arena to allow the players to practice on the arena's concrete floor. That practice would be the perfect start to develop the team and prepare it for much stronger competition in the Grand Rapids suburb. During the several practices that took place, the players all voted on a team name and team jerseys and Kevin Wootton used those final tallies to create the look that the newly formed team displayed at Rivertown Sports during the September 13, 2002 season opener. During that game, the new Copper League team fell to the Rage 6-2. Despite the loss, the team did finish the eight-game-season with a record of 5-3 and even advanced to the championship game in the team's inaugural season, yet fell to Off the Wall by the final of 1-0.
Following the first season of Phantom Hockey at Rivertown Sports, the team decided to return for a second. During the Winter 2002 season, the team did not meet expectations and finished the 10 game season with a 4-5-1 record. The team would not qualify for the post-season. During nearly the entire season attitudes would not be the greatest and tension among players would increase. There was mounting pressure from some to make player changes and leadership changes. Despite the pressure, Art Dorsey and Kevin Wootton would not give in to certain calls for change and as a result several players decided to not return for the team's third season. This sudden loss created numerous openings on the team's roster. From the Fun Spot, only Nate Tyler and Rob Brown would continue to hang with the Phantoms. Within a matter of weeks, several players interested in joining the Phantoms were calling. Players like Mike Shaver (who was underage for his first two Phantom seasons) and Matt Mead joined the team. Art and Kevin then returned to their roots of Seyferth's Park and picked up former Ground Zero players Gordie Anderson and Brett Smith. Matt Zehr, who played during the first two seasons, talked to his younger brother Brad about playing and Brad signed up without hesitation. Brian Doctor, who graduated with Matt and Kevin in 2001 from Mona Shores, agreed to return for his third season. Before the team knew it, the roster was full and during that third season the Phantoms cruised to a perfect 10-0 regular season record. Despite the new powerhouse in the league, the Phantoms suffered an opening round play-off defeat to the players that left the Phantoms. The Vipers won the game 2-1, yet they fell in the championship game. The loss by the Phantoms was hard, but the following season the team returned and captured revenge from the Vipers, defeating them 4-0 in the championship game to capture the first Phantom Championship. Ironically, following the play-off loss to the Vipers during the third season, the Phantoms captured the next 4-0 games against the Vipers, two of which were in the play-offs.
During the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Phantom Hockey at Rivertown Sports, the team cruised to a 33-3-1 record for that three-season period, outscoring the opponents 258-102. Because of the very successful statistics for the team, Rivertown Sports forced the Phantoms into the Bronze League for the Winter 2003 Season (Phantoms 6th Season). The Phantoms finished 7-3-1 in their first Bronze season, yet fell to Creekside Gardens (now known as Bolthouse Farms) 3-2 in the opening round of the play-offs. From that point, the team continued playing hockey at Rivertown Sports and even featured two teams (Bronze and Copper) for a couple of those seasons. New players kept on being brought into the system. The team continued to grow and gain talent. Other teams at Rivertown also continued to grow in talent and that increased competition only made the players on the Phantoms better. Some seasons were good for the Yellow and Black; others were not so good. The idea of playing recreational in-line hockey was only a short-term goal. Yet during the Winter 2004 season, the Phantoms marked the team's Tenth Anniversary Season. Because of school, work and conflicts with everyday life, the Phantoms experienced occasional problems with skilled players being able to play. That lack of talent would create some forgetful seasons for the Phantoms, yet the team of friends would continue to play. During the Fall 2005 season (Phantoms 13th), the team did not make the play-offs. For that season, as well as the next two, the team would not be in the play-offs and finished the period with an overall 13-16 record. With the Copper league being so strong, the team decided to drop down to Brass (one league down). That move would create the final three seasons that the Phantoms would play at Rivertown Sports. In that first Brass Season, the Phantoms finished 8-1-0-1 and defeated DeKleine Builders 4-0 in the championship game for the team's second championship. The life and heart of the Phantom team was back. During the following season, the team fell victim to Dynamo in the opening round of the play-offs. During the next season (Phantoms 17th), the team fell to BioHazard 4-3 in overtime during the championship game. While the Phantoms enjoyed much success during the Brass seasons, there appeared to many on the Yellow and Black that numerous teams and forces were against the team that was the longest consecutive running team at Rivertown. That tension against the Phantoms created several situations in which other players were taking advantage of the Phantoms by fighting, cheap shots and playing extremely rough against the Yellow Squad. Added to the mix, were numerous penalties and questionable calls that were granted to the Phantoms, yet it appeared the Phantoms were the only group that was being 'singled-out'.
During the Fall 2006 Phantom season (Phantoms 17th), the team started discussing its plans for the following season. Of the main core of players, several stated they would not return to Rivertown as a result of what they considered an unfair treatment to the Phantoms. An announcement was made on September 24th that announced the team would leave Rivertown Sports and play a season at Lazerskate Sports Plex in Cedar Springs. That announcement created a very large boost of energy and ultimately brought the entire Phantom Family back together. Several players, including Gordie Anderson, Casey Rosenberg and Matt Zehr, agreed to return from 'in-line retirement' and return to the Phantoms. The change in playing nights from Friday to Sunday allowed Mike Shaver and Matt Myers to again return to the Phantom lineup. The Phantoms also contacted Ty Coon and Andy Roseart, who played against the Phantoms for several seasons at Rivertown Sports, about joining the Yellow Squad.
On Sunday, October 15th the Phantoms made their Lazerskate debut. During that opening game, the entire Phantom team had nothing but positive words for the rink, the competition and Lazerskate in general. The team is very proud to have made the move to Lazerskate and proud that the team that is now on the rink again with several players that have been such a large art of the success of the Phantoms for over the past four years. Despite no active Phantom teams playing at Rivertown following that Fall 2006 departure from Rivertown to Cedar Rock, many Phantoms and former teammates continued to play on and off again at Rivertown prior to the start of what became of the Good Ole Boys in the Winter of 2008. The Good Ole Boys captured three championships in the Aluminum division from the Winter of 2008 through the teams last season Spring 2010. With the Good Ole Boys splitting up to play ice hockey in the Spring of 2010, the half that remained at Rivertown took on a group of Phantom members that were playing on the main Phantom squad at Cedar Rock and formed 'Phantom South'. 'Phantom South,' played three seasons at Rivertown Sports and earned a trip to the championship game in each of the team's three seasons. In the spring of 2011, the team decided to shift out of Rivertown Sports and begin a new era for the team at Walker Ice & Fitness. In May of 2011, the Phantoms began their first season ever on the Ice and continued to also keep their Cedar Rock team going strong. In that first Ice Season, the Phantoms were able to go 11-3-0-1 on the season.
In July 2011, Cedar Rock Sports Plex announced that they were converting the inline rink that the Phantoms and many other teams have skated on since 2006 to Ice beginning in the Fall of 2011. After listening to the members of the Phantoms, it was decided that the team would not return to Cedar Rock in the Fall of 2011, but rather shift and merge both Phantom teams (ice nd inline) into one team at Walker Ice and Fitness for the Winter 2011 season beginning in October 2011. In closing, Kevin Wootton would like to especially thank Nate Tyler and Matt Zehr, for playing with the team since the team was started back in 2002. Also, thanks to Brian Doctor, Gordie Anderson, Brad Zehr, Art Dorsey, Brett Smith, Matt Mead and Adam Trahan for their service both on the rink and in helping make important decisions and giving input that was used to keep the team going during various stages of the teams past. Everyone who has worn the Yellow and Black plays a very important part of the history of this team. We are all a group of players that are playing a game we all enjoy and not only are we friends, We Are The Phantoms!
[Note: In June 2008, Lazerskate Sports Plex changed its name to Cedar Rock Sports Plex. (Same Owners, Different Name)].
Gophers' world junior gold medalists welcomed back by a coach who knows the grind.
The Gophers men's hockey schedule had an odd look to it with Colorado College coming to Minneapolis for a two-game series on Sunday and Monday in early January.
Bob Motzko, the coach of the Gophers, was asked: "The holidays are over, so what gives?"
Motzko said: "Colorado College owed us a series, and we both had openings in our schedules this week."
OK, but why Sunday-Monday, not Friday-Saturday?
"I wanted to have the possibility of getting our guys back in the lineup," Motzko said. "All series are so important, with the NCAA ratings for the tournament, so we scheduled it for 5 p.m. Sunday and then Monday night."
The "guys" would be the four Gophers who were members of the U.S. team that won the world junior tournament on Friday — putting a 6-2 beating on host Sweden in Gothenburg.
The Gophers announced their schedule at the end of August and the national junior team with 29 candidates wasn't announced until early December, but Motzko knew that as always there would be Gophers on the final roster.
To be eligible, a player could not have reached 20 years age as of Dec. 31, and the four Gophers among the 25 gold medalists were forwards Jimmy Snuggerud and Oliver Moore, and defensemen Ryan Chesley and Sam Rinzel.
"[Logan] Cooley could have been on this team, too, if he still was in college," Motzko said.
Cooley does not turn 20 until May. He was a freshman star on the Gophers team of 2022-23, originally said he was going to remain in school for another year, and then signed with the Arizona Coyotes as a third overall draft choice from 2022.
There now are five players from the Gophers national runners-up in the NHL: forwards Cooley and Matthew Knies (Toronto), and defensemen Brock Faber (Wild), Ryan Johnson (Buffalo) and Jackson LaCombe (Anaheim).
"It's going to be hard to ever duplicate a crew like that, but we have plenty left," Motzko said. "We were banged up before the break. We're healthier now and the gold winners will be back Sunday.
"They are getting on a plane in Sweden on Saturday night and should be here Sunday morning. It's up to them on whether to play. Generally, when players get back from the juniors, they are flying around the ice that first weekend.
"Then, all that high-energy hockey they played, best-on-best from all over the hockey world … they can feel it a little in the legs the second week.''
Motzko knows of what he speaks. He was at St. Cloud State and an assistant to Gophers coach Don Lucia for the U.S. junior team in 2014 in Malmö, Sweden, a team that lost in the quarterfinals to Russia.
Motzko was the USA's head coach in 2017. The Yanks beat Canada 5-4 in Montreal in the final. Motzko was the coach again in 2018, when the U.S. beat Canada again, in a pool play game played outdoors in the Bills' stadium in Buffalo, N.Y.
"There were about 100,000 Canadians in there, and our friends and family," Motzko said. "What a game that was."
Motzko did what he could for the committee trying to bring the 2026 world junior hockey tournament to the Twin Cities. The campaign became successful last week, when it was announced the world juniors will be here from Dec. 26, 2025 to Jan. 5, 2026.
"It's going to be at the X in St. Paul and at our arena, but what's also great is the exhibition games the teams play against each other before the tournament starts," Motzko said. "They're going to play them around the state — Bemidji, St. Cloud, Mankato.
"There really are very few great players in the NHL today that we didn't see in the world juniors."
Motzko paused and said: "If you love fast hockey; really, it's all offense, because the skill is so exceptional."
The world juniors were held in Minnesota way back in 1982, when a Kirill Kaprizov could have been a superstar, and then disappeared behind the Iron Curtain.
Now, the non-North American talent is vital to the NHL … and producing U.S. players is not the bailiwick of Minnesota and New England, with a few stragglers.
Yes, there are seven players from Boston College among Friday's gold medalists, but one is from Scottsdale, Ariz. and another from Melbourne, Fla.
Three players on the team total were from Florida, even though alligators, water moccasins and no ice cut way down on pond hockey.
Patrick Reusse is a sports columnist who writes three columns per week. Write to Patrick by e-mailing [email protected] and including his name in the subject line.
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NFL head coach hot seat tracker: Latest intel on Patriots and Bill Belichick, plus other notable situations
With the end of the regular season typically comes a lot of turnover.
The end of the NFL regular season means the true beginning of the hiring cycle. The coaching carousel, as it's called, should consist of anywhere between six to eight openings, according to multiple sources around the league.
Already the Panthers , Chargers and Raiders head-coaching positions are open, and more will come in the following days. Meanwhile, there could be as many as six GM openings as well.
Here's a look at some of the hot seats around the league, with intel on the direction these franchises could go in the coming weeks.
New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has sidestepped questions about his future for weeks. Sources say Belichick and Patriots owner Robert Kraft have not met to discuss the future, and no one with firsthand knowledge is willing to state unequivocally what will happen before that meeting -- or those meetings -- take place. The expectation around the league has been Belichick and the Patriots will mutually part ways, but even that could take some time. A reasonable expectation is that no matter what's decided, there likely won't be any decisions made on or by Black Monday. Belichick has a legion of former Patriots coaches and personnel executives who could join him at his new job. Meanwhile, there'd be jobs to fill in Foxboro. Jerod Mayo is the top internal candidate, but no one knows if the Krafts would go internal. And the Krafts have never had to hire a GM in the three decades in New England.
Los Angeles Chargers
John Spanos, the president of football operations, will be running the search for the Chargers. The head coaching job may be more attractive than the GM job, at least in the short-term, because of all the painful salary-cap cuts that are sure to take place this offseason. Nevertheless, sources expect an "expansive" search at head coach . I'm told the GM search may be narrower. But "everything's on the table" for the Chargers, sources say. The team feels it can be competitive in terms of salary.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders are 4-4 with Antonio Pierce as the interim head coach with wins over the defending champion Chiefs and a huge victory over the Chargers that led to Brandon Staley's ouster. As one source said, the Raiders have "done as well as they could as a team since" Pierce took over. There's no indication from Raiders owner Mark Davis on where Pierce or interim GM Champ Kelly currently stand. The Raiders have to go through the full interview process with both positions, so there won't be any determination on their fates until weeks from now. That said, Pierce and Kelly will have to decide whether they take interviews elsewhere should they get requests, or if they put all their eggs into the Raiders basket with Davis deciding their fates. One has to wonder if Jim Harbaugh, who has had many agents over his coaching career, hired Don Yee, who is Tom Brady's agent, to make the connection in Las Vegas, where Brady is so beloved by the owner that he's been offered a piece of the team at a steep discount.
A month ago, the Bears were 4-8 in their bye week and signs pointed to neither Matt Eberflus nor Justin Fields returning to Chicago in 2024. Since then, the Bears have gone 3-1 with their only loss being a three-point defeat to the Browns . The Bears have the second-best point differential in the league since Week 14, and Eberflus's defense has allowed the third-fewest points in the league in that same timespan. Beating the rival Packers in Week 18 and keeping them out of the playoffs would be the icing on the cake for Flus's chances , but he likely doesn't even have to do that in order to keep his job . As it stands today, it's more likely than not Eberflus is the head coach of the Bears in 2024.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers had an opportunity to clinch the NFC South in Week 17 but lost to the Saints . They have another chance against Carolina in Week 18. Todd Bowles got the team to the playoffs last year, and another playoff trip would extinguish any questions about whether he'd return next year. If Tampa fumbles two win-and-in opportunities down the stretch, Bowles' seat would warm.
New Orleans Saints
Dennis Allen has been expected to return for the 2024 season . GM Mickey Loomis is known for being patient, and Allen's (aging) defense is poised to finish in the top-10 in scoring for the fourth straight year. Derek Carr's contract dictates he'll be back in 2024 as the Saints deal with their annual cap issues. But a change at offensive coordinator could take place, CBS Sports previously reported . The Saints can get into the playoffs with a win against the Falcons and some help from other teams.
Arthur Smith is 23-32 as the head coach of the Falcons. He and GM Terry Fontenot worked the team out of cap hell the first two years, and the Falcons are on the precipice of their first playoff berth since 2017 with a win against the Saints and loss by the Bucs. Sources have said the Falcons would need to "collapse" down the stretch in order for owner Arthur Blank to move on. Blank applied some pressure two weeks ago when he said he was committed to Smith but needed to see results. Atlanta beat the Colts , 29-10, after those comments but lost by 20 to the Bears a week later. As I understand, it's not a playoffs-or-else edict in Atlanta, but a win in Week 18 would strongly help Smith's chances of getting a fourth year.
The expectation since Thanksgiving is that new Commanders owner Josh Harris will move on from head coach Ron Rivera at the end of the season . Washington hasn't tasted victory in more than two months. Because Rivera is at the top of the football food chain in Washington, his firing would shake up the organization in a big way. The GM role currently occupied by Martin Mayhew could also become open . The future structure of the front office is one to watch here. Washington could hire an EVP of football operations to go along with the GM. Who reports to whom would have to be determined and likely candidate-dependent. But if that's the case, the Commanders could scare off some qualified candidates who may worry about how many chefs are in the kitchen.
Carolina owner David Tepper fired Frank Reich after just 11 games, and it was clear interim Chris Tabor would not get the permanent job. Tepper is expected to swing for Lions OC Ben Johnson yet again, one year after Johnson pulled himself out of the running and stayed in Detroit. An offensive-minded coach is expected to be the route Tepper goes in his third search for a head coach in four years. Carolina will likely try to hang on to defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, who could get head-coaching interviews in the coming weeks. It's unclear whether Tepper will retain general manager Scott Fitterer, but sources outside the building have anticipated Tepper would start new at both positions this offseason for the first time in his tenure as owner.
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