2011-07-29 / Sports

Federal Hockey League Survives And Expands

By Daniel Solomon

The New York Aviators’ home rink at the Aviator Sports and Recreation Complex, located in Floyd Bennett Field. The New York Aviators’ home rink at the Aviator Sports and Recreation Complex, located in Floyd Bennett Field. The National Hockey League has been known for its high-priced tickets — if you can even find any available for sale. A game with the family can run into the hundreds of dollars, turning a fun, regular excursion into a prohibitive, wallet-emptying luxury.

Predictably, many parents are deciding to pass on the pro-hockey games and a new league is popping up to fill the void.

That organization is the Federal Hockey League, a minor league that launched operations in December 2010 and includes eight clubs throughout the northeastern United States, one of which is the New York Aviators, a team based in Brooklyn’s Aviator Sports and Recreation Complex.

At FHL matches, tickets are cheap, food is affordable, and fan bases have started to swell. Costs have been held down by light travel and salary caps. The first season started off with six clubs, which grew to the current number as new teams were added in Vermont and Illinois.

The Aviators, themselves, have done quite well, finishing second in the League’s first season after a 21-game winning streak and a narrow loss in the Championship Series to the Akwesasne Warriors, who are from Canada’s Ontario Province.

By no measure, though, was the FHL’s first season a pleasure cruise. The number of games had to be reduced from 60 to 52 due to burnout. One club, the Cape Cod Bluefins, was even forced to move from Binghamton, New York to their current location in Massachusetts.

Still, the FHL, whose commissioner is Don Kirnan, has made progress on three fronts. Attendance at its playoff matches was up 100 percent from that of its regular season games. Higherquality players have been signed due to the absence of a veteran rule within the League, which requires pro-players to participate in a certain number of games before they can join a team. Finally, the FHL has adopted some innovative regulations and practices, borrowing ideas from Europe and elsewhere. The League is just getting started. Keeping on its current trajectory of expansion and success, it may very well become a big name in the world of hockey.

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