Just as the American Hockey League (AHL) announced affiliate changes that led to the departure of the Binghamton Devils from Binghamton to Utica last Friday, the Federal Prospects Hockey League (FPHL) released a statement on Wednesday, May 12, that the Binghamton Black Bears will continue Binghamton’s tradition of professional hockey at the Visions Veterans Memorial Arena heading into the fall.
“Broome County has been a professional hockey community for nearly 50 years, and we’re excited to host the Black Bears at the Visions Veterans Memorial Arena,” said Broome County Executive Jason Garnar. “This promises to be a fun, affordable experience for families throughout the community. In the wake of the [COVID-19] pandemic, having a team playing in our arena will give residents and visitors a great reason to come rediscover Downtown Binghamton. I’d like to thank team owner Andreas Johansson, FPHL Commissioner Don Kirnan and Arena Manager Chris Marion for working quickly to bring a team to Broome County.”
The expansion team will become the 10th team in the FPHL which, unlike the American Hockey League (AHL), has no affiliation with the National Hockey League (NHL). However, teams in Carolina, Columbus and Elmira recently moved from affiliated leagues to the FPHL and drew in thousands of spectators a year. During the 2019-20 season, the FPHL Elmira Enforcers averaged 3,077 attendees per game and totaled 76,919 spectators by the end of the season.
“We are incredibly excited to place an expansion team in a market with such tremendous hockey history as Binghamton,” Johansson said. “Our business model is based on affordable entertainment for the whole family, and our fans tend to love the community involvement of our players, as well as our ‘old school’ style of hockey — fast, physical and hard-hitting, but with plenty of skill as well. If you look at where the league is today compared to just a few years ago, it is incredible to see how far we have come and the tremendous success we have seen in all these new markets.”
This is not the first time the FPHL has come to Broome County. During the 2010-11 season, the Broome County Barons season played at the Chenango Ice Rink, which is now known as the Ice House Sports Complex. The team only played 12 home games in Chenango before moving to Cape Cod. Over the 15 home games the franchise held that season, split between Broome County and Cape Cod, they only averaged 421 people in attendance per game with a total attendance of 6,313.
Johansson told WIVT/WBGH NewsChannel 34 that he hopes to create a greater involvement between the Binghamton community and the players.
“The motto for this team is going to be ‘Your City, Your Team’ and we truly want to build something for the city of Binghamton and the fantastic traditional hockey that you have here,” Johansson told WIVT.
Season tickets for FPHL matchups start as low as $10 per game to help attract big crowds. The Visions Veterans Memorial Arena Box Office at Binghamton is currently sponsored by Mirabito Energy Products. Its CEO, Joe Mirabito, seemed excited at the prospect of continuing the professional hockey tradition in Binghamton.
“We are excited to see hockey staying in Binghamton,” Mirabito said. “We believe community activities like this are important to keeping our community vibrant.”