International Independent Hockey League

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The International Independent Hockey League (IIHL) was an independent low-level professional ice hockey league that played in the Great Lakes Region of the United States in late 2003 and ceased operations in 2004. Several players used the IIHL to launch higher-level professional ice hockey careers.

History[edit]

The first IIHL game was played in December 2003 at Polar Bear Arena in Harbor Springs, Michigan. It featured the Northern Michigan Predators and Lansing Ice Nuts (the Ice Nuts won 3-2). Former National Hockey League (NHL) star Craig Coxe was the coach for the Predators. He went on to manage the rink in Harbor Springs after the IIHL ended.

Another former NHL star, Darren Banks, was general manager and head coach of the Motor City Snipers and obtained a lease at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum. The team was owned by Kilbreath,[who?] but discontinued after a few games because of unpaid bills.

The Soo City Mavericks played out of the historic Pullar Center in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Shane W. Kelley owned the team and was general manager and head coach. Jason Rapcewicz was his associate coach.

The Ohio Valley Ice Cats played out of Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio, on the campus of Ohio University. Their first general manager/head coach resigned after fewer than a dozen players showed up for training camp and the original ownership group from Florida never paid franchise fees or league fees. The league named a college student to help the team captain manage the Ice Cats while seeking a new owner. None was found.

The Lansing Ice Nuts played at Michigan State University's Munn Ice Arena. Because they operated a no-alcohol policy, they never drew more than 350 fans to a game, but the ban on drinking by players produced the IIHL's best club. General manager and head coach Chris Blaisius resigned after a New Year's Eve game after his and the players' payroll checks bounced and Kilbreath failed to pay bills with the rink and team hotel. The Ice Nuts were on a tally of 11-0 at the time.

Cessation[edit]

The IIHL ceased operations in late January 2004 because of financial problems and low attendances. By the end of January, nearly every player on the Lansing Ice Nuts roster had moved on to play in Europe or in a higher-level professional league with the help of Blaisuis and assistant coach Rosty Saglo.

Post-cessation[edit]

Following the demise of the IIHL, the Northern Michigan Predators began to play in the IIHL's smallest arena, but a zoning issue[clarification needed] with Harbor Springs officials resulted in the allocation of only 300 seats. Owner Tom Considine dismantled the Predators after the IIHL office shut down the league and pressed charges against the team's general manager.[citation needed]

Mark Williams, former operator of the successful ECHL team Huntington Blizzard, never commenced with his team in Huntington, West Virginia, because of the disappearance of the league owner.

The IIHL had an affiliation agreement with the now defunct South East Hockey League (SEHL). The four-team SEHL ceased play after the 2003-04 season, and portions of the league joined the Southern Professional Hockey League based in Asheville, North Carolina. Mark Williams quit as general manager of the Winston-Salem franchise in the SEHL to begin his IIHL operation in Huntington with the Tri-State Hurricanes.

IIHL teams[edit]

  • Motor City Snipers
  • Lansing Ice Nuts
  • Northern Michigan Predators
  • Soo City Mavericks
  • Ohio Valley Ice Cats
  • Tri-State Hurricanes
  • Great Lakes Young Americans
  • Motor City All Americans
  • Southern Michigan Super Wolves
  • Huntington, West Virginia
  • North Country Barnstormers
  • Ontario Junior Stars

See also[edit]

List of ice hockey leagues