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Massena announced as second team in North Atlantic Professional Hockey League

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MASSENA - They’re still in the process of filling out the league, but officials with the North Atlantic Professional Hockey League said Tuesday that Massena will definitely be one of the teams.

They said in a news release that Massena Pro Hockey LLC has been accepted as the second member team into the professional hockey league and will play out of the 1,200-seat Massena Arena. The season will open on Oct. 10.

The ownership group has narrowed their search for a head coach and general manager to three “highly talented coaches from North America,” according to the news release. The ownership group includes Darby Oakes, former owner of the Akwesasne Warriors which participated in the Federal Hockey League,

They intend to have a “major press conference” in June to announce the coaching staff and front office personnel. The team will also formally announce its team name and mascot during the press conference.

NAPHL President Phil DeFranco, who was formerly associated with the FHL, said in a telephone interview that they’re looking to form eight teams - four in the United States and four in Canada. Massena and a team from North Adams, Mass., are the only two that have been announced so far.

“We’re working with the people to finalize it,” he said.

Jerry Deno, who was also affiliated with the FHL and now serves as vice president of the NAPHL, and Kresten F. Ericksen, vice president of expansion, are scheduled to meet with five owners of teams in another league Sunday in Cornwall, Ont., according to Mr. DeFranco.

“There are teams up there. Some belong to different leagues up there, some are brand new teams. We’re looking to get four teams out of Canada this year,” he said.

There is also the possibility that some teams currently in the Federal Hockey League could jump into the new league.

“This is going to be a regional league. The longest trips of the proposed four teams (in the U.S.) are probably going to be five-and-a-half to six hours,” he said.

The league is looking at playing a 52-game schedule if they field all eight teams, Mr. DeFranco said. Every team will have a home game on Oct. 10 or 11, and the U.S. teams will play Friday and Saturday. Once the National Football League’s Super Bowl is over, additional games will be played on Sunday. They plan to stage Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Eve games as part of the schedule.

“Our goal is to play one home game a week. The U.S. teams do not have to play on Sunday at home until after the Super Bowl,” he said.

The regular season will end on March 8, and the tentative playoff schedule goes until March 29 if necessary.

“The finals are the best out of five,” Mr. DeFranco said.

In addition to hockey, he said they’re working with different companies to set up promotions for fans.

While Massena recreation officials said they have heard nothing since an initial presentation by Mr. Ericksen last month, Mayor James F. Hidy said he has talked with Mr. DeFranco.

“I’m directing everything to you because you guys are in the know,” Mr. Hidy told the Massena Joint Recreation Commission during their monthly meeting on Tuesday.

In talking with league officials, he said Massena would be happy to have the team in the community.

“Massena would be honored to have this kind of hockey in the community. We are enthusiastic about the new league and we look forward to working with them. This is great for Massena and we are going to support the team as much as possible,” he said.

At this point, recreation officials said they’re waiting to hear from Mr. Oakes to set up a plan for use of the arena, which is also used by several other groups during the winter, including Massena Minor Hockey, Massena Central School, the Massena Figure Skating Club and a broomball league.

“We need to see something concrete,” board member George Hammill said.

Those arrangements, Mr. DeFranco said, “are between the owner and Rich Boprey (recreation director).”

The Massena team expects to have its website up and running no later than the end of May. In the interim, information is available at the league’s website, www.NAPHL.us.

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