Kalamazoo Wings Leave the IHL

The Kalamazoo Wings, as storied a franchise as you are about to find in the minor leagues, has opted out of the IHL.

The Wings announced today that they have…

submitted a letter to the International Hockey League to voluntarily withdraw from the league.

Keep in mind that this is not the same IHL you remember from back in the day. That IHL was a league on solid footing, with a serious hook into the NHL development system. This IHL has a much more dubious background.

This IHL sprung from the UHL, which was a 14 team league only two years before it turned into the 6 team IHL. The former commissioner of the UHL, Richard Brosal, left the UHL for the B2 Network (online broadcaster of hockey games), after he was recorded having a conversation that “never happened” about a UHL linesman being coerced into changing his account of an incident with James Galante, then owner of the Danbury Trashers (a good summery of the events can be found here at the still missed blog, sidearm delivery).

The rest of the IHL is in plenty of trouble as well. The Flint Generals have had financial problems all season long, the Muskegon Lumberjacks changed ownership before the season, and the Port Huron franchise has never been all that stable.

The Wings still plan on playing next season, their 36th. They will announce where they will play at some point soon.

The Wings announcement follows the news that the President and CEO of the IHL left his post to go back to running the… (wait for it) Kalamazoo Wings. From the IHL website:

The International Hockey League (IHL) announced Friday that Paul L. Pickard, IHL President/CEO, will leave his post with the IHL following the expiration of his two-year term as League Commissioner. He advised the IHL Board of Governors that he would not be seeking an extension of his current contract to return to the Kalamazoo Wings as team President, the position he held prior to becoming the IHL’s Commissioner.

So the league president leaves his post heading the IHL, then the team he goes back to running leaves the IHL. What does that say about the IHL? Nothing good. The only team that is on solid footing would be the Ft. Wayne Komets, who lead the league in attendance by a country mile.

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But the league remains optimistic.

“Additional expansion efforts are underway as the IHL’s geographical alignment is proven to be successful,” stated Michael Franke, IHL Chairman of the Board. “The League continues to field several calls about expansion possibilities with markets within the Midwest and new markets for the upcoming season. We, as a league, look forward to what is to come in the near future.”

I wish them the best. With attendance like this at a semi-final playoff round, they may need wishes.


It’s going to be a wild ride for the minor leagues this off season. Stick around.

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  1. For the record, Kalamazoo was admitted into the ECHL officially today.


    The IHL is a mess. Fort Wayne’s owner Michael Franke pretty much runs the league himself — he’s the defacto CEO of it and any time the league makes a statement it comes from him directly. All league going-ons seem to run through his office at some point, and there are rumors of salary cap violations by a few teams that went unpunished…

    There are also rumors that the Franke has helped Flint financially and even that his brother has a financial stake in the Bloomington franchise. Some view the league as Franke’s personal toy used only to support his Komets franchise… this was only heightened when the owners of the new Dayton IHL franchise turned out to be two guys from Fort Wayne that run a tiny pizza buffet chain.

    Kalamazoo fans will likely find more interest in the ECHL, expecially if they can gain an NHL affiliation quickly. Fans in the old IHL used to average 4,000 or more a game for some pretty bad Dallas/Minnesota Star farm teams… Kzoo’s owner is gambling that this is in fact the case and that fan interest will ratchet back up at the chance to see the NHL pipeline once again.

    He also is personally trying to get a downtown arena built to house boht the KWings and the WMU hockey and basketball teams, and an IHL club holds little-to-no-water in terms of credibility with the public. An ECHL one, however, has more credibility and after a few years in the “E” he may then make a bid for an AHL franchise (since Kalamazoo in the IHL was already outdrawing many AHL franchises).

    It will be interesting to see what develops. Losing Kzoo was a huge blow for the IHL and resulted in some very bitter fans in other markets, and many Kzoo fans seem relieved to be clear of the IHL finally.

  2. It is so pity that Wings had left IHL. I was going to IHL games only to see them playing. It is because my few good friends are playing there. Or I should say “were playing”? Because it is not a fact that they will continue their carriers in Wings if they won’t go back to IHL. Btw thanks for the interesting blog!

  3. we’ve actually experienced this ahead of. Because the place was so contains people some idiot put itching powder for the undies stack so whoever bought them and don’t wash them first was going to employ a nasty surprise.

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