Although Pennsylvania is not a traditional hockey hotbed, the Keystone State still boasts some great hockey. Residents can watch prospects develop with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins or the Hershey Bears of the AHL or get a glimpse at all-stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Claude Giroux with the Pittsburgh Penguins or Philadelphia Flyers.
Now, there will be one more option for hockey in Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, Gabriel J. Campana, the mayor of Williamsport, announced that the city will become home to the Williamsport Outlaws of the Federal Hockey League for the 2012-13 season. The Outlaws just finished their first season in the FHL as the New Jersey Outlaws, where they won the league championship, known as the Commissioner’s Cup.
According to the Sun Gazette, the city has been trying to get professional hockey and an arena for several years. This year, Campana announced plans to put a hockey rink in Pickelner Arena, which is located in the local YMCA. If the plan gets approved, the YMCA will be renovated to put the rink in, and a new Y would be built closer to downtown Williamsport.
With that said, some people might be wondering: If the Outlaws have no arena, where will they play?
The Outlaws will play their entire season at Bowman Field in Williamsport. The field is home to the Williamsport Crosscutters, the Single-A short season affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies. Once the baseball season is over, the process of laying ice will begin for the Outlaws’ 30 home games form October to January. When the team is not using the rink, it will be open for public skating. Since Williamsport does not have an ice rink, the outdoor pond will be the first of its kind in the city.
Bowman Field seats 4,200 people, and the league and the city hopes to get 2,000 people to each home game. It has history on its side as well, as it opened in 1926.
The Federal Hockey League is a minor hockey league that started in November 2010. This year, the team had six teams that were mostly located in the northeastern United States. However, one team, the Danville Dashers, was based in Illinois.
Williamsport is about a 1.5-hour drive from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, where the Baby Penguins have been playing since 1999. The city’s population is close to 30,000.
In the business of minor league hockey, some teams have trouble staying afloat financially and bringing fans to their games. However, Williamsport looks promising. For several years, a committee has been dedicated to getting a hockey team and an arena. The pond of Bowman Field will be a new attraction for the city’s residents, and they will likely come out at least once to see a game or go skating.
Furthermore, with some people already having been exposed to the Baby Penguins, there will be the appeal of not having to make a long drive for affordable hockey. And as outdoor hockey games continue increasing in interest and popularity, Williamsport fans can have an outdoor game experience at every home game, something no other hockey team can boast.