Hockey team not likely in Pelham

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 27, 2004

After all the hockey hooplah that surfaced this summer with speculation over which team was going to call the Pelham Civic Complex home, it now appears likely that Shelby County won’t have a hometown hockey team at all – at least not this year.

Fans that expected to head down to the PCC to root on the high-sticking, fast-skating, tooth-claiming action may find something a little different if they travel down to the rinks this fall.

Toe pick?

It’s quite possible the only blades to cut across the ice at the Complex could belong to twirling figure skaters and sloppy beginners.

Pelham’s two NHL-size ice skating rinks are home to the Pelham Ice Skating School and also feature times for recreational skating.

The state-of-the-art complex is perfect for a minor league hockey franchise, but it won’t suffer a bit without one.

The Pelham Civic Complex plays host to many other sporting events year-round including basketball, wrestling, boxing, volleyball, gymnastics, tennis and more.

Here’s why professional hockey doesn’t look likely for Pelham this season:

The Alabama Slammers, the team that got the whole hockey thing rolling in Pelham in the first place, finished its inaugural season last spring as a member of the World Hockey Association 2.

That league no longer exists, though several teams and owners from the WHA2 moved on to form new leagues.

The Slammers racked up a rather sizeable debt during their brief stay in Pelham, something to the tune of nearly $160,000, according to media reports.

Still owing money to the city of Pelham and a host of local and out-of-town businesses, the Slammers went to Mayor Bobby Hayes looking for a renewal of their lease at the PCC for next year.

That puck might fly in other areas, but it’s not how the folks in Shelby County do business.

Just ask Mayor Hayes.

He told the Slammers that Pelham wouldn’t negotiate with the team until it paid up all its debt.

The Slammers lease expired this spring.

That opened the door for a possible new team to come in and take the Slammers place, so a local ownership group with ties to the South East Hockey League slipped in and worked out a conditional lease to place a team named the Bulls at the PCC.

Hayes’ only stipulation was that the league had to have at least six teams by July 15. It didn’t happen.

Recently some hockey team owners who were formerly involved with the WHA2 got together with some teams formerly linked with the SEHL and formed a new league, calling themselves the Southern Professional Hockey League.

Folks from the SEHL say they would like to place a team in Pelham but Hayes has made it clear that anyone involved with the group that owes money to the city and local businesses won’t be welcome with an unpaid tab.

Hockey fans should be skeptical of any &uot;newly-formed&uot; leagues who claim to have all but secured a place for a hockey team in Pelham, we’ve heard it before, all summer long in fact.

The bottom line: don’t believe it until you see Mayor Hayes holding up a jersey.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at