SBJ/19980525/This Week's Issue
Roller leagues know when to fold 'em
Published May 25, 1998
And then there was one. The second of three planned roller hockey leagues disclosed that it would not play this summer, leaving only one professional league.
Roller Hockey International, which lost tens of millions of dollars since its 1993 inaugural season, said it would not play in 1998. RHI, however, said that it expects to raise $12 million in a July 1 public offering and use the capital to build roller hockey rinks.
Last month, the Extreme Hockey League folded before its first season after its principal sponsor, the RHI's Buffalo Wings, jumped to Major League Roller Hockey.
MLRH is scheduled to begin its second season June 12 with 20 teams, including six from the United Kingdom, plus the Anaheim Bullfrogs, the 1997 RHI champions.
RHI Commissioner Ralph Backstrom said he expects the Bullfrogs and Wings to return to his league for a 1999 season. Meanwhile, the RHI expects to build up to four roller hockey facilities annually for several years and is searching for sites in Denver, Salt Lake City and Sacramento.
RHI plans to partner with Wayne Gretzky World Wide Centers and Beachport Entertainment to build 5,000- and 9,000-seat facilities with two or three rinks. During the week the facilities would be used recreationally, with RHI play on weekends.
RHI's decision to suspend play caught many teams unaware. The San Jose Rhinos, for example, had expected to break even this year.
Since scoring an ESPN2 contract and reaching 24 teams in 1994, RHI has shed sponsors, capital and teams amid charges of mismanagement and failed marketing strategies. The league got a $1.5 million bridge loan earlier this year from BlueStone Capital, a New York investment bank that will underwrite the IPO.