As far as public developments go, there really isn’t a lot to report in the ongoing Trenton hockey saga.
In communications with the ECHL, it’s clear — in case it wasn’t to anyone else — that the Titans franchise is dead. Just as the release said, they’ve ceased operations and no longer exist in the eyes of the league. And, despite Titans management making it clear that they’d like to return in 2014-15, that ‘s exactly how the league should approach it.
There is no hold in Trenton for an ECHL team. There is nothing preventing the Sun National Bank Center, which lost 36 guaranteed gates, from bringing in another team in another league. That league, however, will not be the Federal Hockey League.
The A-level league, which has a strong footprint in the Northeast, told me today that there’s no interest in the Trenton facility. The reasons are what you’d think they’d be; the building is too large and the costs would be prohibitive in their business model.
As far as the ECHL goes, there are two ways a team can return to Trenton at this point: Any ownership group can apply for an expansion franchise — and would subsequently have to pay the undisclosed franchise fee to do so — or can purchase an existing franchise and apply for relocation, with both scenarios needing to be approved by the league’s Board of Governors.
ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna’s comment that the Trenton market might be better off without hockey for a year or two was universally panned by what’s left of the Titans fan base…and, while I’m not sure I would have said that on the record…I don’t disagree with him. It wasn’t working here. Not now. Mediocrity was acceptable, and like he also told me, while there was a small uptick in attendance, it wasn’t enough to sustain the franchise.
3,000 fans in a building that can hold over 8,000 for hockey became OK. 3,000 fans in a building that did hold over 8,000 for hockey on a routine basis in the early days of “Titans 1.0” became OK. Saying that it was 3,000 fans when it was actually substantially less became OK.
And until a group can come in and somehow completely change the culture of hockey in Trenton, that’s exactly what’s going to happen when and if a team returns to the capital city right now.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com