To the surprise of few, the All American Hockey League has suspended operations. The announcement came back on June 16, with the caveat that the “Single-A” league hopes to resume operations for the 2012-2013 season.
The IceMen called the AAHL home for 2 seasons. The first season (2008-2009) was a rough one both on and off the ice, as the All American Hockey Association (as it was known at the time) experienced a LOT of growing pains. The IceMen then captured the AAHL championship in 2009-2010, which was the league’s most stable and “legitimate” season. And when Evansville moved up to the “Double-A” Central Hockey League starting with the 2010-2011 season, the floundering AAHL ship quickly started to sink without its flagship franchise on board.
Perhaps the most iconic figure from the AAHL’s brief history was Darren Seid, the General Manager and Head Coach of the Chi-Town Shooters. A legend in his own mind, Seid also occasionally suited up as a player for the Shooters, and piled up a rap sheet of suspensions that would make Chris Pronger blush. The furry galoot even famously stripped down to his birthday suit (thankfully only from the waist up) “Slap Shot” style during a brawl with the IceMen.
But in one critical instance, the fruit loop whose on-ice shenanigans often made the league look like a complete joke was actually a much-needed voice of reason. (Yeah, I know, right?)
During the league’s rocky inaugural campaign, the Detroit Dragons abruptly ceased operations, leaving the remaining teams with a bunch of home dates for which there was no visiting team. Not wanting to give up valuable home games and the associated ticket revenue, the AAHA leaders and general managers tried to find new owners for the Dragons, but to no avail.
It seemed that the only viable option – unwanted as it may be – was to cancel all Dragons road games and treat them as forfeit wins for the home teams. The remaining teams would just have to deal with losing the ticket revenue, because it was really the only path that could be taken.
Or was it? The league brass and most of its general managers had another idea – fill those home dates using collections of local men’s league players! That’s right – take that, people who dismiss us as a glorified beer league! We’ll actually sanction our “real” teams playing against beer league teams! That ought to shut you critics up!
As luck would have it, the next scheduled road appearance for the Detroit Dragons was in Evansville on the first weekend of 2009. So the IceMen took on “The Dragons,” a bunch of local guys with varying experience (including a few former University of Southern Indiana Ice Eagles) who wore plain red jerseys with a big black “D” on the front.
I remember hearing one fan suggest that the “D” stood for “Dumb,” as in, “they must think the fans are really dumb if they expect us to buy this garbage!”
The IceMen organization took a lot of heat over the “Dragons” debacle, and rightfully so. But the sad fact is, it originally wasn’t going to be just an Evansville thing. It really was an arrangement that the league’s leaders designed and supported for use by all of the remaining teams.
At least, until they heard the backlash here in Evansville. That’s when plans changed and they somehow found a way to fast-track the arrival of the Chicago Blaze to replace “The Dragons” and fill everybody’s vacant home dates.
Now, here’s the surprising part – the one general manager who vehemently opposed the “beer league” solution was none other than Darren Seid.
You see, when I took over as IceMen webmaster last season, I was given access to the old IceMen Yahoo e-mail account, which is no longer used. But during the early days of the franchise, that account was the hub for the IceMen end of league discussions and debates.
One evening early last season, I spent an hour or two rummaging around the old messages, actually looking for some of the team’s web hosting account information. (I never did find it.) As you’d expect, the vast majority of the hundreds of messages I came across were pretty bland stuff – players inquiring about joining the team, equipment companies trying to make a sale, potential sponsor contacts, league memos about weekly conference calls and whatnot, and ho-hum stuff like that.
But I did stumble upon a string of discussions from the end of 2008, when the real Dragons folded and the fake “Dragons” were born. I had always wondered what the real story was. Now I know, and so do you.
The reality is, “The Dragons” were not merely a Chip Rossetti creation, as some would like to believe. Chip took the brunt of the blame because his team happened to be the first (and eventually only) proverbial guinea pig, but the blame should have been shared because the “Dragons” plan was a collective effort among several people – Chip, the folks in Battle Creek, and the league brass. Now granted, it wasn’t their FIRST choice; they all wanted to do the right thing and find new owners for Detroit.
But when it became clear that a “HockeyTown” revival wasn’t in the cards, the majority of those making the decisions decided that instead of completely losing home dates, “home teams vs local guys” was the way to go league-wide for the rest of the season.
In the string of e-mails I saw, only one GM had the cajones to repeatedly say “this is wrong” and fight for cancellation over a sideshow. That man was Darren Seid.