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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : sports : sports August 27, 2015

8/20/2014 8:17:00 PM
Sources say Sundogs have suspended operations
Buzz takes hold on same day Denver Cutthroats announce they'll go dormant
Steve Stockmar
Sports Editor

PRESCOTT VALLEY, Arizona - Arizona Sundogs fans, and at least one player, spent Wednesday reeling over constant rumors about the team and its apparent demise.

Two Central Hockey League teams, in fact.

While the CHL officially announced Wednesday that the Denver Cutthroats were going dormant in 2014-15 with the hopes of resurfacing down the road, multiple sources confirmed late that night that the Prescott Valley-based club, an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes, had ceased operations as well.

"The Denver Cutthroats announced that they're not going to field a team for the upcoming season, and the Arizona Sun Dogs (sic) could be next, according to multiple reports," reporter Sean Gentille wrote on late Wednesday morning.

By late Wednesday night, The Quad City (Iowa) Times reported that Quad City Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski confirmed that both the Cutthroats and the Sundogs had suspended operations. also cited multiple sources confirming that the Sundogs "are suspending operations effective immediately."

Another team, the St. Charles Chill, folded earlier this summer after its one and only season in the CHL.

Including the Arizona and Denver news, that leaves the league with seven clubs after taking 10 to the ice in 2013-14. The Allen Americans won the league's President's Cup for the second straight year.

Neither the CHL, nor the Sundogs, nor Tim's Toyota Center - the team's home ice - responded to requests for comment on Wednesday regarding Arizona's status. No statements were issued either by the team or the league.

Kevin Baker, the Sundogs' leading scorer from last season who re-signed with the club for the 2014-15 season on July 1, said Wednesday evening that he was in the dark.

"They haven't told me anything," he said when reached by phone. "I called and (they) said nothing has been reached yet. So I'm kind of hoping to find out myself."

That didn't stop the minor league hockey world from buzzing with rumors of the big day in the CHL.

Agent Darryl Wolski, who represents 80 pro players with his 2112 Hockey Agency in Canada, tweeted at 5:36 p.m.: "Arizona Sundogs have ceased operation as well .... players have been notified."

Wolski doesn't represent any Sundogs players, he said when reached for further comment, but said players in the hockey community were certainly talking - and, in some cases, looking for jobs.

"It's going to be those guys, like the 10th forward on the team and the seventh defenseman on the team, those guys are going to have a tough time finding a job tomorrow," Wolski said. "That's going to be a tough thing for those guys."

Ironically, on Aug. 13, former Cutthroat T.J. Fox just signed with the Sundogs.

"This just doesn't happen today. This wasn't like a knee-jerk reaction from both teams today. I think there's been obviously some planning and thought," Wolski speculated.

"There's more prominent franchises - like the Missouris and those guys - who average 5,500 (fans) a night. I think those teams were hoping to put six or seven teams in the East Coast Hockey League this year, but that didn't happen."

Two weeks ago, East Coast hockey writer Gerry Cantlon speculated on that, based on unnamed sources, the CHL would cease operations in late 2015.

Persistent rumors suggested that some CHL teams would merge with the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) or with the American Hockey League (AHL).

The CHL did not comment on that report. A day after it became public, Sundogs general manager Chris Presson emailed the Courier saying, "I have had no conversations regarding the rumored merger. We are a member in good standing with the CHL and we continue to operate in that regard."

The Sundogs in fact were moving forward with hockey business.

The team organized a much-publicized promotion in June in which owner Brad Fain and Presson stayed in an underground Dumpster to reach a goal of selling 300 season tickets for the 2014-15 season. They emerged after 10 days having met that goal.

In the weeks afterward, the team re-signed Baker, and added two new forwards to the roster. As recently as Aug. 6, Arizona signed veteran defenseman Drew Fata.

Still, rumors of the team's and the league's fate persisted.

Earlier this month, Travis Hughes on wrote that "several NHL teams are unhappy about the way minor league hockey works for them, and big changes are in the works."

Hughes' report included rumors of the ECHL absorbing the "struggling" CHL.

The Sundogs are an affiliate of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, who, in an email to the Courier this month, characterized the relationship as "a marketing affiliation." The Coyotes added that they had no knowledge of rumors regarding the Sundogs, and that the Coyotes remain committed to their current AHL affiliate, the Portland (Maine) Pirates.

Then came word Wednesday that the Cutthroats, who eliminated the Sundogs in the CHL semifinals last season, would go dark in 2014-15. Just hours later, it became apparent that the Sundogs reportedly followed suit.

In a news release from the league's director of operations, Bob Hoffman, who has offered no public comments on the CHL's current status as a league, added in the Wednesday news release that the Denver franchise "will look to secure additional investors" to try and bring the Cutthroats back into the fold.

"We feel the Denver market remains a strong, viable area for minor league hockey, and has an ownership group that is passionate about making it work," CHL Commissioner Steve Ryan said in the statement. "We are confident that with time, they will return to the ice and re-establish themselves in the community for the years ahead."

Hoffman added that the CHL is revising its 2014-15 schedule, which will be released "in the coming days."

With no official word yet from the league or the Arizona franchise, it doesn't appear that the Sundogs will be part of that schedule.

"I'm just as confused," Baker said. "I'm trying to sort it all out myself; what's going on, what's true and what's rumor. Stuff all over the Internet. It's crazy."

Follow Steve Stockmar on Twitter @CourierSports

Related Stories:
• #1 Local Sports Story of 2014: Sundogs shut down
• Sundogs suspend season; good memories give way to what now?
• Sundogs hockey team cancels 2014-15 season
• Sundogs GM says club to remain in CHL despite rumors of league's demise
• Rumor mill: Report says CHL to fold after 2014-15

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: Town of PV Get the Checkbook Out

How long till the taxpayers of PV have to start paying for the mortgage on Tim's Toyota Center? My guess is, not too long. Could the Courier do an investigation into who gets to pay the tab on this now empty barn?

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: @ Hooty Hoo

You are really comparing apples to oranges when you compare the top professional soccer league in the country to a third rate professional hockey league.

Never mind the difference in population between greater Portland and the quad cities.

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: Hooty Hoo

That's too bad. We only went to a few games, not hockey fans at all, but a lot of people we know love the Sundogs. I think this area just isn't big enough to support minor league hockey. Recently went to an MLS game in Portland (Timbers). What a fanatical crowd! 25,000 maniacs, they sell out every game and cheap seats are $50. It's just a bigger younger town.

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: The Rev

First step before they become AHL. I am not worried in the least.


Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: Number One Fan & Sponsor

I have been a Sundogs fan and sponsor since the team's inception. I was skeptical from the beginning like everyone else, but they brought in the right players and the right management like Radio Roby, Donna Werking and Brent Thiessen. Once those key people left the organization, the downfall was evident, but as a community we should continue to support growth and all new programs in our community.

I'll treasure my memories here and value all the relationships with the players that I've made over the years.

I just want to know, what's going to happen to the arena at this point?

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: Jack May

My family and I have attended several Sundog games. Even though we knew nothing about hockey we thoroughly enjoyed it. The team, the game, and the overall production were fantastic. The one thing that was a big negative for us was the excessively high prices charged at the concession stands. We never purchased anything from the concession stand because we would have had to get a second mortgage on our house in order to do so. We hope the Sundogs return, they are an asset to our town.

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2014
Article comment by: Matt Santos

Great piece Steve- considering all the rumors with no confirmation from league or club, some of the so called "media outlets" seem very irresponsible. The desire to be first instead of right is scary.

Not saying the rumors wont prove to be time...who benefits from a 24 hr head start? Lousy excuse for bragging rights if you ask me

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