The International Hockey League will be extremely interested observers looking at a potential team in Madison, Wis. Representatives of Twin Lakes Hockey Partners have announced they hope to field a professional team starting in the 2009-2010 season.
“We're beyond our infancy stage, and the only Class AA league we have talked to is the IHL,” said Matt Tjapkes, the vice president of communications for the team and a former Muskegon Fury broadcaster and public relations manager. “There are two Class A leagues we've been talking to here and there.”
Tjapkes declined to name the primary owner, but said the man is meeting with arenas in the Madison area. The goal is to announce the team name, league and venue by mid-March.
IHL President and CEO Paul Pickard said he has not received a formal application to the league and has not met with the prospective owner. Pro hockey failed twice previously in Madison with the United Hockey League, the last time in 2000 when the Madison Kodiaks left to become the new Kalamazoo Wings.
“There's not a lot of news on our end until they make a decision on what they want to do,” Pickard said. “They have to understand that it's no longer the UHL. For them, there's no comparison to the way the UHL was in Madison versus what we would bring to the table now. Madison is a great city, and it obviously fits in our geographic footprint.”
The biggest challenge may be coexisting with the very popular and successful University of Wisconsin men's hockey team. Tjapkes said the new team will try to schedule away from the Badgers as much as possible.
“Obviously the league will have to help us with that,” Tjapkes said. “I think it can be done. With a town that big, it doesn't make any sense that something hasn't taken off there yet.”
Adding Madison could help stabilize the IHL which has six teams. Pickard said Chicago Owner Craig Drektrah continues as a regular dues-paying member of the league after taking his team dormant following the 2006-07 season. Drekrah has attended recent league meetings and there have been rumors he would like the team to return next season. Pickard said he has been in Chicago recently to meet with representatives of the Sears Centre at Hoffman Estates, Ill., but could not comment further.