I've been holding back on posting about the ugly situation involving the Albert Lea Thunder of the NAHL the past couple of weeks. Partially because I wanted to see how everything shook out, and partially because I try to stay out of NAHL ownership disputes after I got yelled at a lot a few years ago for saying the Santa Fe Roadrunners wouldn't return to Santa Fe the following season(which they did not).
Anyway, here is the situation. About two weeks ago, allegations came to light that Albert Lea Thunder had been offering roster spots and guaranteed ice time to players that were willing to pay some amount of money to the team. Obviously that's a pretty big no-no in the NAHL, which prides itself on being the only non-Tier I "no pay-to-play" league. The two men involved in the deal were team owner Barry Soskin, who has a long history of owning small junior league teams you've never heard of, and a man name Jim Perkins, who no one seems to know much about. The NAHL was under the impression that Soskin was the team's sole owner, but Perkins is also a part-owner, and his name appears on all of the disputed contracts.
Initially, Soskin was ordered to pay $400,000 or else the franchise would face termination, and Albert Lea was allowed to continue to play, though without the ability to make roster moves. But it sounds like that fine was never paid--Albert Lea's head coach described the fine as being way more than the total value of the franchise-- as today, the NAHL Board of Governors voted to terminate Albert Lea's membership from the league.
It's a sad ending for the kids in Albert Lea, but it's difficult to see how that franchise could continue after a scandal like this.
The good news for the NAHL is that they will be adding a new franchise next fall, in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Dawson Creek is really in the middle of nowhere, but Wenatchee proved that as long as a franchise is well-run, it's possible to make it work.