TRAVERSE CITY — Where does Hockeytown North turn for its hockey fix now?
With the North Stars' seven-year run in Traverse City over — they were sold to Sault Ste. Marie for next season — the region is left with a hockey void.
Traverse City still has its competitive high school teams, various Detroit Red Wings camps at Centre ICE, plus youth hockey.
But the North Stars departure means at least 30 open game dates a season at Centre ICE.
Centre ICE director Terry Marchand is working on filling that void.
"I've had a couple conversations with teams that have shown some interest," Marchand said. "We've traded information, and I'm letting the process take it's course."
A potential replacement for the North Stars — who were in the Junior A Tier II North American Hockey League — is likely to come from the Tier III level.
The Kalkaska Roughnecks — a Tier III team similar to what may come to Traverse City — drew an average of 84 fans a game to the Kaliseum in its inaugural season. That ranked ninth in the 11-team Great Lakes Junior Hockey League, with Michigan leading the way with 155 spectators per home contest in the western Detroit suburb of Wayne.
The Roughnecks finished the season with a 13-26-2 record, earning the league's final playoff spot before a first-round exit.
The Tier III business model is a more stable one from a financial standpoint for areas that struggle to draw fans. While revenue from ticket sales tend to be lower, teams can balance that out by collecting several thousand dollars per player a season for the privilege of being on the team.
Marchand said the Tier III model may be the solution to have a Junior team in Traverse City.
"I think without a doubt," Marchand said. "The North Stars tried it for years, and unfortunately it wasn't successful. It's a pretty big advantage to have pay-for-play."
Under the umbrella of USA Hockey, Tier III is allowed to have pay-to-play, while Tier I and II teams are not.
"Being the dad of a player who is about that age, I personally would have a really difficult time paying that kind of money to have him play Midget AAA or something," said TC Central head coach Chris Givens, whose son Cam is a standout sophomore for the Trojans.
The North Stars spent upwards of $40,000 a year on ice time as Centre ICE's top team tenant.
Marchand had the advantage of knowing for awhile that this was coming. The league announced on March 2 that the Soo Eagles had been granted membership in the league by purchasing the North Stars, but many saw it coming long before that.
"I was at pretty much every home game over the years, and they really put a good product on the ice," Marchand said. "I just don't understand why it never worked."
Success on the ice was not a major issue for the North Stars, who had a winning percentage of .643 over the last four seasons. Tickets to North Stars games were $8, or less per game if a season ticket package was purchased.
The North Stars drew an average of 440 spectators per home contest. Only two franchises in the 28-team NAHL — Alaska (387) and Kalamazoo (234) — had lower totals.
Meanwhile, the league set new records for total (1,128,098) and average (1,342) attendance, buoyed by eight teams that brought in over 2,000 fans a game. Fresno, Corpus Christi and Wenatchee each drew over 3,000 a contest, led by second-year franchise Fresno's 3,557.
"It was nice to have that level of hockey right here in town," Givens said. "It gave kids that wanted to play at that higher level and were talented enough a good place here at home where they didn't have to leave. With Anthony (Palumbo), Chad (Fournier) and Dallas (Drake) involved, it's been good for the local kids."
The North Stars had eight players on this year's team with local ties — seven from Traverse City and one from Cadillac.
"Kids could stay at home for their junior or senior year ... knowing that the North Stars staff was going to come watch," Givens said. "And if you're doing the right things, they were more than willing to give those kids the opportunity. Having them here certainly helped us keep kids."
Centre ICE director is talking with Tier III teams
TRAVERSE CITY — Where does Hockeytown North turn for its hockey fix now?
Ex-North Star Jean signs with N.Y. Rangers
The North Stars are no longer in Traverse City, but soon one of their former standouts will be.Continued ...
Run ends for North Stars in Traverse City
TC ousted with 3-2 overtime lossContinued ...
TC North Stars in must-win situation
Do or die time. The Traverse City North Stars will be in that situation for the next three games — they hope.Continued ...
K-Wings beat Stars again
Traverse City must win out to keep season aliveContinued ...
- Friday, April 6, 2012
Ex-North Star scores game- winner for FSU
Ferris State will play for the NCAA hockey championship for the first time on Saturday night, thanks to the game-winning goal from ex-Traverse City North Star Kyle Bonis.Continued ...
- Thursday, April 5, 2012
Stars open playoffs on the road
Don't expect a brawl, but there's going to be a fight to move on as the Traverse City North Stars hit the road Friday to start the North Division playoffs.Continued ...
- Monday, April 2, 2012
Badner's goals power Stars
Will Badner netted four goals Sunday afternoon as the Traverse City North Stars closed out the regular season with a win.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 31, 2012
North Stars blank Jamestown
Jared Van Wormer and Mitchell Snider each had a goal and an assist Friday night to spark the Traverse City North Stars to a 3-0 North American Hockey League win over Jamestown at Centre ICE. The North Stars scored a goal in each period.Continued ...
- Monday, March 26, 2012
Stars top Hitmen; last series on tap
The Traverse City North Stars will return home on a winning note, a three-game homestand with Jamestown remaining in the regular season.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 24, 2012
North Stars fall to Chicago
It wasn’t a good day to be an above-.500 North Division team. Traverse City failed to gain ground on Port Huron and Kalamazoo as all three of the top teams lost in the same evening.Continued ...
- Sunday, March 18, 2012
Jamestown avoids sweep
Jamestown avoided a sweep in the three-game weekend series on Saturday with a 3-2 win over Traverse City.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 17, 2012
Stars win again
Van Wormer, Rivard and Badner score in 3-1 victoryContinued ...
- Thursday, March 8, 2012
North Stars clinch spot in playoffs
The Traverse City North Stars clinched a playoff berth with a shutout of the Michigan Warriors.Continued ...
- Monday, March 5, 2012
North Stars come up short in OT
The Traverse City North Stars will finish the regular season with a split.Continued ...
- Sunday, March 4, 2012
North Stars win in shootout
Michal Toman’s shootout goal in the fifth round Saturday was the difference for Traverse City’s 4-3 win over Kalamazoo.Continued ...
- Saturday, March 3, 2012
North Stars moving to Sault Ste. Marie
The North Stars are moving north, but they’ll no longer be Stars. Traverse City’s North American Hockey League franchise has been sold to an ownership group in Sault Ste. Marie that will move the team there and operate as the Soo Eagles.Continued ...
- Wednesday, February 29, 2012
North Stars beat Kalamazoo
The Traverse City North Stars defeated Kalamazoo in a North American Hockey League game at Centre ICE on Tuesday.Continued ...
- Tuesday, February 28, 2012
TC's Snider earns honor from NAHL
It took a pair of shutouts by Alexandria goaltender Jacob Meyers to prevent Traverse City's Mitchell Snider from being the North American Hockey League's top player of the week honoree.Continued ...
- Thursday, February 23, 2012
Stars prospects represent team well
Each of five Traverse City representatives notched at least a point in the three-day NAHL Top Prospects Tournament.Continued ...
- Monday, February 20, 2012
Kalamazoo rallies to beat Stars
The Traverse City North Stars were clinging to a 2-1 lead when Kalamazoo exploded for four unanswered goals.Continued ...
- Saturday, February 18, 2012
Stars skate past Kalamazoo
Goalie Kyle Laslo stopped 36 shots Friday night as the Traverse City North Stars defeated Kalamazoo.Continued ...
- Monday, February 13, 2012
North Stars win
Division-leading Port Huron clinched a playoff berth on Saturday, but couldn't handle the North Stars on Sunday.Continued ...
- Saturday, February 11, 2012
Murphy propels Stars
Traverse City’s Sean Murphy earned the game’s No. 1 star Friday night.Continued ...
- Thursday, February 9, 2012
Short-handed North Stars fall
Playing short a skater all game, it didn't look like it on the ice. But it did on the scoreboard.Continued ...
- Ex-North Star Jean signs with N.Y. Rangers