Berkshire Battalion owner: Hockey team will leave North Adams

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The Berkshire Battalion hockey team appears to be headed out of North Adams.

Battalion owner William Dadds told The Eagle on Friday that he intends to move the Federal Hockey League franchise out of Berkshire County after one season, and will pursue a move that will have the Battalion playing in either Danbury, Conn., or Brewster, N.Y.

"We're going to have two teams, but we will figure it out," Dadds said Friday afternoon. "I'm a part-owner in both buildings. We just got the lease today from Danbury.

"Bruce Bennett wanted to go in with me, and we got the opportunity to take Danbury over."

Bennett, a car dealership owner in Wilton, Conn., told the Danbury News-Times two weeks ago that he was leading an effort to put a new FHL franchise in the Danbury Ice Arena for the 2015-16 season. On Friday afternoon, the dealership's Facebook page posted that "There WILL be an FHL Hockey team in Danbury this season."

This plan could not be confirmed at press time, as FHL Commissioner Don Kirnan could not be reached for comment. A league official confirmed that a weekly conference call will be held Monday, but was unsure of what would be discussed.

The Danbury franchise is currently inactive, as stated by Kirnan in a press release announcing the arrival of the Stateline Whalers in Brewster. The owners of the Danbury Ice Arena declined to renew their lease with the Whalers in April, but Whalers CEO and managing partner Herm Sorcher said Friday that he was still an owner of the Whalers, as well as general manager of the Stateline team and a league representative for the Dayton franchise. Sorcher held a similar representative position with the Battalion at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, well before Dadds purchased the team in early March.

Sorcher declined comment on any matters regarding the Battalion's status on Friday, as well as the situations in Danbury or Brewster.

Dadds, the father of 2014-15 Battalion player Andrew Dadds, said at the time of the purchase that he planned to keep the franchise in North Adams. On June 11, however, Dadds posted on the Battalion's Facebook page that he was considering moving the franchise due to restrictions at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink.

One week later, he said the team would remain in North Adams for at least another year. Under the plan for the 2015-16 season at that time, the Battalion would only have played three Friday night home games — down from more than 10 last season.

North Adams city officials told The Eagle last week that the rink lost a "substantial" amount of revenue in fiscal year 2015, the first year in which the Battalion called North Adams home. The team's Friday night games interfered with the rink's weekly open skate, according to officials.

"It's becoming a business decision," Dadds said. "I don't feel like we're going to get a very good welcome from [City Administrative Officer] Mike Canales. That was not my issue, though. It definitely was leaning."

Mayor Richard Alcombright, when reached by phone on Friday, said he was extremely disheartened that the Battalion would not be returning to North Adams.

"Based on the last few weeks ... with our insistence on last year's bills being paid and those certain things, I don't think that I'm surprised. I'm very disappointed, for sure," Alcombright said.

Alcombright said he could understand Dadds' desire to take over a team in a larger city closer to his home, but did not want the city to be made into a scapegoat.

"We've done everything we could to keep the team and league here," Alcombright said.

The administration had demanded that, for lease to be signed at the city's skating rink for the 2015-2016 season, the Battalion play a maximum of three Friday night home games.

Alcombright and Canales have argued that the 11 home games on Friday nights last year cut into the rink's revenue, which would normally bring in more than $1,000 on a Friday night open youth skate.

The city also demanded that Dadds pay local vendors — including the North Adams Police, North Adams Ambulance Service, and a local dentist — bills that were accrued last season, while the team was still league-owned.

"I will stand by that. I'm not going to say that I made the wrong decision," Alcombright said.

The Battalion's Facebook page had a posting Friday that confirmed the team's intent to move. It was met with a number of comments critical of both the franchise and the city administration.

Shane Bua, local hockey blogger and Battalion fan, is one of the fans upset by the move.

"When an owner tells his fan base that he has an agreement in place and that the team will stay in town, only to announce the next week that he's moving it out of town, it seems like a massive slap in the face to the fans," Bua wrote in a message to The Eagle. "Hockey seems to be making a steady rise in popularity in the Berkshires, and losing a team at this level doesn't help that at all."

Dadds said Friday that he feels for the fans affected by the move.

"For the fans, it really sucks," Dadds continued. "I love them. I was buying it because of the fans ... and then all that happened with the administration."

Dadds noted that the situation between the franchise and the city became more complicated with Darin Lane's status. Lane, the former rink manager in North Adams as well as coach and general manager of the Battalion, resigned from both Battalion positions last week.

Lane was fired from his position as rink manager earlier this year after taking $2,200 from the rink safe to pay for heating oil at his home. Lane maintains that the cash never left the building; a criminal larceny charge against him was subsequently continued without a finding and dismissed upon payment of restitution.

"I just wasn't getting a warm feeling ... from the people in the rink, running the rink," Dadds said. "Then after they told me Darin was allowed back in the rink, I felt a little better. ... Then Darin felt the best thing to do was resign as coach. When that happened, it deflated everything in North Adams."

Lane said last week that he was "uncomfortable with the current administration," and did not want the team to be penalized because of it. Alcombright, though, told The Eagle that he was fine with Lane as both GM and coach.

With the Battalion leaving, Alcombright said he believes the police and ambulance services will likely not recoup the more than $5,000 owed to them.

Despite the demands prior to signing a lease, Alcombright noted the benefits professional hockey league brought to the community, especially for youth hockey leagues.

"We were very much hoping that it would be the SteepleCats [NECBL summer-league baseball team] of the winter for us," Alcombright said.


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