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Plans under way to bring pro hockey back to Berlin


by Jody Houle
Contributing Writer - Berlin Reporter

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If all goes well, the North American Hockey League (LNAH) of Canada will add a Berlin team to the league. Berlin officials met with LNAH leaders three weeks ago to discuss the possibility. If it happens, Berlin will be the first American team to join the league. The idea to put Berlin on the league came after some former Berlin River Drivers, who suspended operation last month under the Federal Hockey League (FHL), expressed interest in joining the LNAH. LNAH is reputed at the toughest hockey league in the world. Some former NHL and AHL players are on the league. Owners and LNAH officials are working behind the scenes to put Berlin on the 2018/2019 roster. Courtesy Photo.
July 17, 2017
BERLIN Berlin hockey fans and enthusiasts were disappointed when the River Drivers suspended operations under the Federal Hockey League. The team came a long way in a short amount of time and made it to the championship finals this past season. Hockey Town USA had been revived so it seemed. Now, it is hopeful that professional hockey may return to Berlin next year.

For mostly financial reasons, including traveling costs, the owners of the River Drivers decided it was time to hang up the skates at the end of the 2016/2017 season. The goal was to sell enough pre-season tickets in order to meet financial needs, but not enough were sold.

This sparked some interest in another league Ligue Nord-Americaine de Hockey, of Canada. Translated to the North American Hockey League, LNAH is considered "a much better and more respected league" according to a press release from an owner who wishes to be anonymous at this time. The owners of the former River Drivers have met with Berlin officials as well as officials from LNAH in recent weeks and there is agreed interest in adding a Berlin team to the league for the 2018/2019 season. If it happens, Berlin will be among the first American teams to be added to the league based out of Quebec.

Initially, efforts were being made to add Berlin to the roster for the upcoming season, but time became an issue.

"With a draft on August 5, 2017 and camp starting a little over a month later, the smartest decision had to be made. The league and local ownership decided to wait until the 2018-2019 for Berlin to join the league. The details will continue to be worked on behind the scenes during this down time between the two entities," the release stated.

Owners stated that they would like to thank all of the sponsors for continued enthusiasm and support "in a league better suited for the community" and for "embracing the history of the area."

"This will be a great opportunity for sponsors and fans alike to collaborate and encourage prospective parties to continue the hockey movement that has begun," the owners stated in the release.

A proposed name for a Berlin team is the Berlin Blackjacks.

Home games would be held at the Notre Dame Arena most likely on Saturdays.

LNAH is a minor-professional league with, currently, six active teams. The league is unofficially reputed to be the toughest hockey league in the world with many "enforcers." Former NHL and AHL players play in the league.

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