Is the IHL Changing

By Andrew Bourgeois
The IHL could have a different look next year. Maybe fewer teams, maybe one conference, and maybe NHL affilation. Minor pro hockey is changing and Doug Moss the IHL commisioner knows that.

Moss is so ready for change, he believes that in two short years minor pro hockey in North America could be so different — yet so amazingly sensible — that hockey fans will wonder why it didn’t happen sooner.

“I think it would be very safe to say that minor pro hockey is going through an adjustment,” said Moss.
“In the early ’90s, people believed in the theory, ‘Build it and they will come.’ We expanded all over North America, we moved into new or different buildings, we opened the doors and expected people to show up. I remember, when I worked in Buffalo, (former Sabres owner) Seymour Knox said to me, ‘Doug, there was a time when we could hang out a shingle that read, Hockey Game Tonight, and people would come. It’s not like that anymore.’ Mr. Knox was right and it’s something we all have to accept. The way we do business in professional sport at every level is changing dramatically, and I now believe we have people at the minor pro hockey level who are of the mindset that it’s time for change.”

Perhaps the saddest reality in hockey is that Gary Bettman is the commissioner of the NHL while Doug Moss is the commissioner of the IHL. Bettman doesn’t get it. Although he has a complete and total appreciation for money and what it can do, Bettman still doesn’t understand that hockey is a regional game and that hockey fans are raised, not coerced.

Moss, meanwhile, has a clue. As a former president of the Buffalo Sabres and a man who is a legitimate hockey fan, he knew that in order to survive, the IHL had to make peace with the NHL, bring in younger, hungrier players and ride the NHL’s “big league” coattails for as long and as hard as he could.

Not since the 1970s has the IHL had as strong a relationship with the NHL, but not since the 1991 season has the league been so short of franchises. And that’s why Moss has both concerns and optimism.

“The IHL may be the same size or it may be smaller next year (the Cincinnati Cyclones, with an AHL competitor in town, obviously have some economic problems),” Moss said. “But don’t worry, the IHL will operate.”

In the meantime, change is coming, Moss said. “It might not have to be next season, but it has to happen sometime. It is in everyone’s best interest to find a better way to do business.”

The “change” to which Moss is referring is the concept of NHL2. It’s so beautifully simple and has so much support from Bettman, it’s a bit of a shock that it hasn’t happened already.

What Moss and Bettman want to do (and American Hockey League commissioner David Andrews, to a much lesser extent, is at least prepared to discuss) is create a 30-team minor pro league based on the same principles as Triple A baseball. All 30 NHL teams would have one minor pro affiliate and as a result, the NHL and “Triple A hockey” would become one giant buddy system.

Granted, it wouldn’t automatically solve minor pro hockey’s greatest concern (which is, quite simply, showing a profit on at least some of its franchises), but it will give the second-tier pro teams a recognizable brand name.

It will also help the NHL, too. Not just by simplifying the affiliation confusion, but by allowing the big league to go to its television partners and say, “We now have a legitimate interest in the NHL in 30 more markets.”
It would be the most sensible move professional hockey could make. However, Moss is still aware that it won’t miraculously cure all of hockey’s ills. That’s because Moss gets it.

“It’s become obvious to us that we are not only competing for the public’s disposable income,” he said, “but we’re also competing for something that is now even more precious — their disposable time.

“We have to determine, in this increasingly busy world, a world with more leisure time options than at any other time in history, whether or not people will actually find the time to come to our events. That’s the issue everyone in sport is addressing.

“The IHL is going through this process now, because we made the mistakes — the mistakes of expansion, of increased costs, of increased travel — before everyone else.

“Ultimately, the necessary changes to the way we do business don’t have to happen next year, but they must happen soon. It’s in everyone’s interest to find a better way to do business.”

Milwaukee Admirals          1
Cleveland Lumberjacks       4

Kansas City Blades          2
Manitoba Moose              4
B.J. Young had a goal and an assist as the Manitoba Moose defeated the Kansas City Blades, 4-2. Young scored his eighth marker of the season 3:38 into the second period to give Manitoba a 3-1 lead with what proved to be the game-winner. Steve Brule and Sean Pronger both delivered a goal and an assist for the Moose, who won their fourth straight home game. Ken Wregget needed to stop only 12 shots to pick up the win and improved to 11-12-4. Dody Wood finished with a goal and an assist for Kansas City, which lost its fifth straight game. Corey Schwab suffered the loss after allowing four goals on 40 shots.

Detroit Vipers              0
Grand Rapids Griffins       6
Mike Fountain recorded his sixth shutout of the season as the Grand Rapids Griffins blanked the Detroit Vipers, 6-0, extending their unbeaten streak to eight games. Fountain stopped 18 shots and helped thwart all five of Detroit’s power-play chances en route to his league-leading 33rd win (33-9-6). Slava Butsayev paced the offense with two goals and an assist and Chris Szysky and Ivan Ciernik each delivered a goal and an assist for Grand Rapids, which improved to 6-0-2 during its current streak and has clinched home ice advantage throughout the Turner Cup Playoffs. Dieter Kochan suffered the loss after surrendering six goals on 21 shots for the last-place Vipers, who were shutout for a league-worst 11th time this season.

Orlando Solar Bears         2
Chicago Wolves              5

Cincinnati Cyclones         6
Utah Grizzlies              2
Brian Felsner scored two goals and added two assists as the Cincinnati Cyclones crushed the Utah Grizzlies, 6-2. Felsner turned a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 lead with a pair of goals, the latter of which came on the power play 3:26 into the second period. Byron Ritchie added a goal and an assist and Greg Koehler netted a power-play tally as the Cyclones improved to 18-18-5 on the road. Jean-Marc Pelletier picked up the win after stopping 35 shots. Ryan Christie and John Purves each scored for Utah, which fell to 3-4-0 versus Cincinnati this season. Mike Bales took the loss after surrendering four goals on 18 shots before being replaced in the second period by Chad Alban.


Ted Drury of the Chicago Wolves is the only player on the Wolves to score in the Shootout.
Rookie Eric Cole of the Cincinati Cyclones leads the Cyclones with 4 short handed goals.


April 7, 1926: Montreal Maroons win their first ever Stanley Cup with a 2-0 win over the Victoria Cougars at the Montreal Forum.


On March 31, 2001 the Cleveland Lumberjacks recorded their 40th win of the season. It was Clevelands 3rd 40th win season in the franchises history in Cleveland.


None to report.


Sunday April 8, 2001
Kansas City Blades at Manitoba Moose 2:00pm
Milwaukee Admirals at Houston Aeros 5:00pm
Detroit Vipers at Orlando Solar Bears 5:00pm
Cleveland Lumberjacks at Chicago Wolves 4:00pm