It appears the ill-fated attempt to revive hockey in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond has ended, according to various sources close to the matter.
Operations have ceased, at least for now, for the once four-team USACHL. Born last March with an announcement that the RGV Killer Bees would be returning as a junior team, the league survived for approximately 260 days.
State Farm Hidalgo Arena cited several “issues” in a statement Friday about the status of the Bees and the venue they called home.
“We are disappointed to announce that hockey in the State Farm Hidalgo Arena has been postponed indefinitely until contract differences have been resolved,” the statement read. “The RGV Killer Bees hold a historic significance in the arena and we hope the Killer Bees can resume when franchise issues are resolved.”
Eric Treviño, general manager for State Farm Hidalgo Arena, specified in the statement concerns regarding contractual obligations.
“Contract agreements were in place at State Farm Hidalgo Arena during March; however, some compliances with the agreement have not been met,” Treviño said in the statement. “As the season kept getting closer, we anticipated that the team and league would have a different outreach and marketing plan.”
The seven-plus months since the announcement included a quiet offseason, in which the initial goal of a six-team league did not come to fruition. Instead, the Bees were joined by two other Texas markets, Laredo and Wichita Falls, that had also been without hockey for some time.
The league’s fourth team, the Texas Lawmen based in McAllen, was announced via Facebook on Aug. 24. The McAllen team played home games at the Frio Grande Ice Center.
Players arrived in Texas at different times, but issues with the league were visible before the puck dropped. Rosters of the teams didn’t appear online and stats through the first weeks of the season were hard to come by, raising concerns with fans and players’ families.
Statistics and video are instrumental in promoting the players for a fledgling league hoping to woo college recruiters.
December was the boiling point when news broke of trouble with other teams. The Wichita Falls Time Record News and local CBS affiliate KUAZ reported that Wichita Falls Force coach Misko Antisin left the team citing lack of pay, and team members eventually followed.
Players from the North Texas-based Force have also left for home, according to the KUAZ report.
The Texas Lawmen folded in late November after only three players remained on the team.
In Wichita Falls, employees in the team’s front office have also claimed lack of pay or bounced checks. In recent days, the Laredo Morning Times reported similar situations occurring in Laredo when the four-member Bucks staff quit for the same reason.
Bill Davidson, CEO and co-founder of the USACHL, said Thursday that the league has “been sabotaged.”
A league announcement was expected Friday morning, but never came. Bees officials did not immediately return calls Friday.