2010-07-30 / Sports

Aviators Hope New Hockey League Provides Stability

By Elio Velez

Rob Miller, head coach of the New York Aviators (left) poses with Awwad Basen, owner/ team president of the Akwesasne Warriors. Rob Miller, head coach of the New York Aviators (left) poses with Awwad Basen, owner/ team president of the Akwesasne Warriors. Rob Miller, the head coach and president of the New York Aviators, was a little tired after two long days of League meetings with the officials of the other teams in the first-year Federal Hockey League (FHL) at the Aviator Complex in Brooklyn this past week.

But any signs of weariness went out the window when Miller talked about the prospects of participating in the six team Single-A hockey league, which starts play on November 5. He feels a lot more confident about the FHL’s chances of succeeding.

“I think the competition will be good. I know some of the players who have signed with the other teams,” Miller said. “I think the competition will be very good and it will challenge my players and it will challenge me as a coach.”

Miller, who now lives in Belle Harbor, has gone through plenty of changes playing with the teams that played at the Aviator ice rink.

Miller played one season with the Brooklyn Aces before the Eastern Professional Hockey League folded in the spring of 2009. He then coached the renamed New York Aviators, but when through some tumultuous moments.

The Aviators hadn’t dropped the puck in their first year in the North East Professional Hockey League in 2009 when three of the six teams dropped out due to financial woes. It left the Aviators playing only teams from Kingston, Rhode Island and New Haven Connecticut in a radically reduced three month season.

The Aviators had to reschedule games against semipro teams and other organizations such as the NYPD and FDNY hockey team. But Miller kept a calm demeanor, and a talented Aviators squad went about their business of going 25-0 against their competition to win the NEPHL title.

“Last year was rough. As far as the players, they were great. They didn’t complain and we had a good team,” Miller said. “It was difficult with things changing, the schedules changing and teams dropping out. Everybody from the ownership group to the players was great and it was better than what could have been.”

But once the league folded after New York’s title win in January, Miller was contacted by Don Kirnan, the commissioner of the FHL.

He proposed the Aviators join the six team league which will have teams in upstate Rome and Broome County, Dan-bury, Connecticut. Two franchises, the Akwesasne Mohawk Tribe and Thousands Islands, will straddle on both sides of the New York-Canada border. After discussion, Miller and the Aviators were eager to sign up.

Miller would like to stay in the area and grow with the league if they can survive this season. The 20-week FHL season will have 60 regular season games and two playoff rounds.

Miller already has a few key players for the coming season, including KC Timmons, Jesse Felten and Eddie Neville. The Aviators will announce a program of group ticket plans soon and will travel throughout the community to promote what Miller believes will be an exciting brand of hockey this year.

“We’re building a good team here, we hired some new people and I think its going to be a good situation.

I like to stay as long as this is around. Hopefully we can build and grow even more,” Miller said.

“There are teams interested next season in joining. But it’s all about the first season,” Miller added. “If we get these six teams to go through, other people are going to want to be a part of it.”

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