The USHL announced this afternoon that Bob Fallen will be the league's next president and commissioner. Fallen takes over for Skip Prince, who left the job to become Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Branding(incidentally, the most NCAA job title ever) at the University of Texas. Prince will also remain as a senior advisor to Fallen.
Fallen comes to the USHL with an extensive resume working on the business side of hockey. Most recently, Fallen worked for Reebok-CCM where he was "responsible for executing retail product launches, strategic account planning, media promotion, and maintaining various league alliances." "There's a lot of parallels to be drawn between marketing hockey equipment and what we're trying to do as a league. I see this as an opportunity to expand the services that we're providing to our member clubs," said Fallen.
Brad Kwong, managing partner of the Dubuque Fighting Saints and interim chair of the USHL board of directors called Fallen a consensus builder that can bring people together. "We wanted someone to promote and tell the fantastic story that is the USHL, and what better person than someone that has lived and breathed the USHL as a parent and as a business executive."
"I've had the opportunity to be involved with this league as a member of the media, as a fan, a parent, and a business partner," said Fallen. Fallen's son Thomas played in the USHL for Cedar Rapids for two years from 2009 to 2011 before heading to Yale, where he won a national championship with the Bulldogs, and was named team captain for this upcoming season. "It's a level of play that is very good, and more people need to see it. My son went to that league as a boy, and came out as a man. He was a much better and more complete hockey player than when he came out of Minnesota.
Other notes from Fallen's introductory press conference:
-Skip Prince will remain as a senior advisor to Fallen as he adjusts to the new job, and Prince was pretty involved in the press conference for an outgoing commissioner.
-Fallen voiced strong support for the American Development Model, and the league's place in it.. "We consider the USHL to an an absolute lynchpin step in that process. We consider the USHL a really excellent opportunity for players to look at for development for college hockey and the NHL." He also pointed out that the ADM isn't just focused on players, but that the USHL can also play an important role in developing coaches and officials for USA Hockey.
-Fallen also voiced support for the NTDP as a member of the USHL. The program sometimes draws frustration from other teams in the league, but Fallen talked about it as a mutually beneficial relationship for the USHL and the NTDP, and it seems like the NTDP will continue to operate in the USHL as they have.
-When asked about possible league expansion, Fallen was said he will be very careful is considering expansion. "Expansion comes with a lot of potential pitfalls, including dilution of talent. Not just players, but in terms of coaches and arenas." He remained open to the possibility of expansion, but it would really have to be the right situation for the league to think about adding more teams.
-One team the USHL would love to add back is Indiana, which went dormant following their championship season this year. Fallen called getting Indiana back a priority, and said they will be having another teleconference later today about that issue. Basically, it seems like as soon as Indiana can find or build a USHL-quality arena, they'll be back in the league. Prince said there's no timetable for their return, but unless Indiana can break ground on a new facility almost immediately, it's unlikely they'd make it back in the league by the '15-'16 season.
-Fallen isn't a huge support of fighting in the junior game, and was proud to cite that the USHL has been working on a Player Safety Initiative for years, and that the level of fighting in the USHL has decreased in recent years to the lowest of any junior league in the country. "I understand why it exists in certains, and why the spontaneity of the game brings such levels of passion. But the USHL now, in the past, and going forward is about developing skills," and cited a decrease in fighting at higher levels of the game.
-Fallen was asked about events like the USHL Prospects game, which was put on hiatus this year. Fallen said events like that are an important opportunity to not only showcase players, but also the USHL brand. He's very interested in involving corporate partners to get them to support those type of events and make them financially viable.