Hockey league may expand here
By Billy Byler| Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Minor league hockey could be a step closer to making a return to Augusta this fall in the form of a Southern Professional Hockey League team.

The SPHL winter meetings, held earlier this week in Charlotte, N.C., concluded Monday, and a statement released by the league confirmed that an ownership group made a presentation to the league's Board of Governors surrounding the possibility of expansion.

SPHL commissioner Jim Combs would not confirm nor deny that the ownership group was targeting Augusta for a home, but he has made remarks in the past that Augusta would be an ideal market for an SPHL team, and Combs made a visit to Augusta two weeks ago. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported Tuesday that Augusta was considered "at the top of the SPHL's expansion list."

Approval for an SPHL team in Augusta would require a vote from the league's Board of Governors.

While the team would be considered an expansion franchise, its roots could come from Winston-Salem where Bob Kerzner, majority owner of the defunct Twin City Cyclones, shut down his team last March.

Augusta lost it s decade-old minor league hockey team in December 2008 when Augusta Lynx ownership shut down the ECHL team two months into the season .

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

THE BACK STORY

BACKGROUND: Minor league hockey has had a tough time in Augusta, but a Southern Professional Hockey League official said last year that an expansion team in the area would be supported.

"I think the discussions are getting deeper and deeper," SPHL commissioner Jim Combs said last January. "I know they can support a team in Augusta."

DEVELOPMENTS:

-- In December 2008, after 10 1/2 years of minor league hockey in Augusta, the financial troubles of the Augusta Lynx forced the team to fold - the first team in the then 21-year history of the ECHL to do so midseason. The team had ranked no better than 20th in the ECHL in attendance in its last 2½ seasons.

-- In January 2009, a push to bring minor league hockey back to Augusta in the form of a Southern Professional Hockey League team picked up momentum. It was a topic of discussion at the SPHL's Board of Governors winter meetings in Knoxville, Tenn.

-- A year later, on Tuesday, the league confirmed the possibility of an expansion team . No city has been named yet.

ABOUT THE SPHL: The league, considered a tier lower than the ECHL in minor league hockey but a less expensive endeavor to field a team, is currently in its sixth season . Six teams are competing in the 2009-10 regular season, including franchises in Columbus, Ga., Fayetteville, N.C., Huntsville, Ala., Knoxville , Lafayette, La., Biloxi, Miss. and Pensacola, Fla.

From the Wednesday, January 27, 2010 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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