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Pro hockey: Massena team in doubt

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MASSENA — The North Atlantic Professional Hockey League, which planned to field a team in Massena this year, is taking another year to get organized, and the chances of Massena receiving a team are now listed as 50-50, according to the league president.

“We’re going to go on hiatus for this year, the 2014-15 season, and come back in 15-16,” Phil DeFranco said.

Massena was set to field a team for the 2014-15 season, with the games at the Massena Arena, but DeFranco said that may not happen now.

He said Darby Oakes, former owner of the Akwesasne Warriors that participated in the Federal Hockey League, had intended to be part of an ownership group of the Massena franchise, but a partner left to take part in another deal, putting the Massena team in question.

“Being a sole owner was not in the cards for him,” Mr. DeFranco said.

He said there was a 50-50 chance Massena would field a team once the league is established. He estimated the cost to start a team at around $75,000 to $100,000.

“One of my partners is working on some other owners and working with Mayor (James F.) Hidy. He’s going to be meeting with him after Labor Day to see if maybe they can get some other people to go in with Mr. Oakes,” he said.

Their plan had been to field a league of eight teams this year — four in the United States and four in Canada — and DeFranco said they’re working to find others who might be interested in ownership of a team.

“We have several potential ownership groups for next season that we will be speaking with over the next few months,” he said.

He said they have a meeting Sept. 29 in Jamestown to talk about a potential team.

“We have a rink that wants a team in there,” he said.

A former National Hockey League player is also interested in putting a team in the Amherst and Buffalo area, he said, and a Canadian team has shown an interest in entering the league.

In addition, he said, they were looking at the possibility of setting teams up in areas such as southern Connecticut or New York.

League officials had announced in mid-May that Massena Pro Hockey LLC had been accepted as a second member team into the professional hockey league, along with the Berkshire Black Bears from North Adams, Mass. They had planned to hold a “major press conference” in June to announce the coaching staff and front office personnel, and announce the team name and mascot. The season was set to open on Oct. 10.

Berkshire had entered into the league but the Bears were released from their NAPHL contract so they could pursue other avenues.

The NAPHL had anticipated that teams from different leagues, such as the Federal Hockey League, would be interested in jumping to the NAPHL.

The league was looking at playing a 52-game schedule if they fielded all eight teams. Games by U.S. teams were scheduled to be played Friday and Saturday and, once the National Football League’s Super Bowl was over, additional games would have been played on Sunday.

The regular season was scheduled to end on March 8, with a tentative playoff schedule running until March 29.

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