International Hockey League commissioner Paul Pickard told me he is interested in adding the Youngstown (Ohio) SteelHounds to his league's ranks. He will have exploratory talks with the team soon and if the two sides decide to move forward it could happen in time for next season.
"We've had conversations and we'd like to get together face-to-face," said Pickard, whose IHL has six teams, including the Turner Cup-champion Fort Wayne Komets. "Obviously, there are many things that have to be taken into consideration. We're only three weeks away from our annual Board of Governors meeting and our schedule is already completed. ... We would entertain changing it, if it were the right situation. The nice thing is Youngstown is not a start-up franchise. It's been doing business for a few years."
The SteelHounds were booted from the Central Hockey League on Monday for undisclosed reasons and are alleged to be interested in both the IHL and ECHL. Pickard said Youngstown would certainly fit the IHL's geographical framework, which is aimed at cost certainty through reduced travel costs and solid ownership.
Step one for Pickard will be a meeting with owner Herb Washington.
While I've heard for months that the IHL was hoping Youngstown would come to the IHL, Pickard said he's never made any advances toward that team -- until today.
"They weren't really on my radar as a representative of this league," Pickard said. "I was trying to do things the way I'd want to be treated. I don't want to go into another league, one of our competitors, and try to court a team away from it. As far as we were concerned, they were part of the Central Hockey League and I had no contact with the CHL or Youngstown."
Youngstown is about 266 miles from Fort Wayne. The SteelHounds are coached by former Fort Wayne player Kevin Kaminski.
-- By Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette