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Author Topic: The future of East Coast Youth Hockey and Black Bear Sports Group LLC  (Read 9181 times)

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Here's what we know. Black Bear Sports Group is purchasing or taking over management of east coast rink properties at a torrid pace.



PHILADLEPHIA, PA. Yesterday we learned three of the four Comcast-Spectacor owned Flyers Skate Zone properties were purchased by Black Bear Sports Group. We also learned former NHL player Keith Primeau is not only involved in the deal, he's also now minority owner of the rinks and a Black Bear employee. In just the last 8 months they have outright purchased or taken over operations and management of 9 tri-state area rinks with a 10th, (Wintersport) still a question mark. Keith Primeau is President of Hockey Operations for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. Keith is a former NHL player who spent 15 seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers. Drafted 3rd overall in 1990, Keith played in two NHL All-Star games and finished his career as captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.

To understand the scope of what appears to be a massive take over, have a look at the current list of rinks acquired by Black Bear. Around this same time last year they owned and operated 9 rinks. They are now at 25 and could be 26 soon.

30 rinks - Update 1/17/2022
Rink portfolio
Connecticut:
Bolton Ice Palace Bolton, CT (the “Arenas”) - New
Champions Skating Center in Cromwell, CT - New
Enfield Twin Rinks  Enfield, CT - New
Milford Ice Pavilion, Milford, CT
Delaware:
The Patriot Ice Center, Newark, DE
Illinois:
Southwest Ice Arena, Crestwood, IL
Center Ice of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL
American Heartland Ice Arena, Lincolnwood, IL
Seven Bridges Ice Arena, Woodbridge, IL
Maryland:
Ice World, Abington MD
Piney Orchard, Odenton, MD
New Jersey:
Atlantic City Flyers Skate Zone, Atlantic City, NJ
Howell Ice Arena, Farmingdale NJ
Ice Land Skating Center, Hamilton Twp, NJ
Igloo Arena, Mt. Laurel NJ
Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, Pennsauken, NJ
Aspen Ice Arena, Randolph, NJ
Skylands Ice World, Stockholm, NJ
Pro Skate, South Brunswick, NJ
Jersey Shore Arena, Wall Township, NJ
Ohio:
Covelli Centre, Youngstown, OH
Pennsylvania:
Grundy Arena, Bristol, PA
Printscape Arena at Southpointe, Canonsburg, PA
Palmer Imaging Arena, Delmont, PA
Pittsburgh Ice Arena, (the “Arena”) New Kensington, PA
North East Flyers Skate Zone, Philadelphia, PA
Bucks County Ice, Warminster PA
Revolution Ice Gardens, Warminster, PA
Twin Ponds East, Harrisburg, PA
York Municipal Arena, York PA

What does this mean for the consumer? This remains to be seen, though many are projecting higher rink rates and inflated ice cost. It would be a trickle down effect. Clubs which play out of these rinks will pass off the cost to the families of the players. Though it wouldn't stop there, in-house hockey, men's leagues, figure skating, clinics, and public ice slots such as free skate, sticks and pucks, and open hockey will also most likely take a hit. One thing is very apparent, Black Bear is swallowing up struggling east coast hockey rinks and quickly taking over many of the common playing venues for local DVHL, NJYHL and AYHL hockey clubs in the Tri-State area. What is the ultimate goal, which rink or rinks is or are next? Stay tuned, at the current pace these rinks are being purchased, there doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

Update Oct 30, 2021

Black Bear Sports Group transitions the Atlantic Hockey Federation from 1st-year supplemental showcase League into full primary Tier ll youth travel league. Many of the DVHL and NJYHL teams have already dropped out from their existing leagues and moved on to AHF.

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT! Black Bear Sports Group To Start New League
------------
Update Dec 1, 2020

Black Bear Sports Group Partners with Ice Arena Owners to Form the Atlantic Hockey Federation


BETHESDA, Md.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Black Bear Sports Group, Inc., (“Black Bear”), Keith Primeau, the Montgomery Blue Devils, New Jersey Bandits, New Jersey Rockets, Hollydell Hurricanes, and Team Philadelphia (the “Founders”) are proud to announce the official launch of the Atlantic Hockey Federation (“AHF”), a USA Hockey Sanctioned, Tier-II Youth Hockey League that will facilitate games and showcases for its members throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The AHF initially has over 225 teams in the league providing high-quality competition at every age group and level. AHF’s goal is to act as a supplemental Tier II league to rink owners who operate clubs in the Delaware Valley Hockey League, New Jersey Youth Hockey league, and Chesapeake Bay Hockey League. The AHF provides high-quality, non-league games and showcases in the Mid-Atlantic uniquely catering to its member-owned clubs. The AHF will commence with four divisions of play at the AA, A1, A2, and B levels and will field youth hockey programs at the 10U, 12U, 14U, 15U/16U, and 18U age levels. The AHF is truly a unique opportunity as each of the Founders and Member clubs operate at all levels of the youth and junior hockey spectrum from Mite thru to Midget at the youth level and from Tier II juniors all the way up to Tier I juniors in the USHL. The league is “run by rink owners, creating the best possible environment for our players and families,” and is run by full-time, paid professional managers and hockey executives. Keith Primeau, former Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers and Head of Operations of the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms will serve as Chairman of the League and Tim Fingerhut, Varsity Head Coach at St. Augustine Prep and Hockey Director of the Igloo Jaguars, a Tier-II youth program, will be the full-time Commissioner and day-to-day head of the AHF.

The goal of the AHF is to provide high-quality games while reducing the cost of hockey for our clubs and our families including, for example, no “stay-to-play” hotel mandates. All showcases will be held in the Mid-Atlantic in Founder rinks with the remainder scheduled as home and away games for the individual teams and clubs. League fees will be finalized by January 1st, 2021 and the final schedule will be released in June/July for the inaugural season. The Founders received positive feedback from youth clubs during AHF’s developmental stage, and as a result, anticipates fielding highly competitive youth club teams at every level for the 2021-2022 season.

Below is the expected timeline for the launch of AHF’s inaugural season:

January 1st: Applications for new teams are live and fee structure released
May 1st: Showcase weekends are assigned
June 10th: Non-Showcase opponents distributed to League Members
July 1st: Non-Showcase schedule feedback by League Members is Announced
July 20th: Schedule is Finalized
August 10th: Roster information input by League Members
AHF looks forward to offering high-quality and highly competitive supplemental play to the youth clubs in the Mid-Atlantic and are excited to launch AHF’s inaugural season.





This article will be updated as more details emerge.



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Reply #1:
 September 15, 2020, 10:00:22 AM
Over 100 million into bankrupt rinks across states that are affluent however unregulated when it comes to rink management. IMO it’s a giant money laundering scheme hiding money in construction costs (as all rinks are almost always getting worked on) and utilizing 501(c)’s to enjoy tax breaks while also having the luxury to siphon off the money at the end of the year from their clubs till to zero out, again if you think just sheer numbers from there Teir1/tier 2 clubs that’s a ton of money. To put it into more simple terms BBSG owns 22 rinks- here’s just one guy owning one rink right up the block - if it’s unregulated no ones stopping it and in the end our kids will lose .NJ Junior Titans show youth sports becoming big business. -
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Reply #2:
 December 08, 2021, 09:19:41 AM
Updated rink ownership/management list to reflect all 29 Black Bear rinks.
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Reply #3:
 December 08, 2021, 10:20:36 AM
Nine rinks in 2020 and almost thirty now and theyre being bought or taken over for way more than worth to get the owners to unload them. Where is all of this capital coming from its gotta be in the tens of millions for all of that property probably over a hundred!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Reply #4:
 December 08, 2021, 02:14:10 PM
My son plays out of a BB rink.  On one hand, I appreciate the upgrades BB made to the rink.  On the other hand, we, the parents are paying for it.  Last season, we had a non-profit organization running the program at the rink.  This season, BB put into place a for profit company running our organization. Our season fees have nearly doubled.  My driving/hotel expenses have gone up tremendously with all of the travel for AHF showcases and games.  My son plays LA, he is not going to the NHL.  I am truly terrified of the costs that we are going to pay next year.  We will have to play for a for-profit organization in a for-profit league.  How much money are we putting out to line their pockets for youth sports?  They are going to price families out of being able to afford to play.
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Reply #5:
 December 09, 2021, 01:34:47 PM
They can be their own worst enemy, they drive up costs and they will lose customers pure and simple.   Its a shame that youth hockey has turned into big business, but ultimately the consumer will decide where they want to spend their money...if at all.
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Reply #6:
 December 09, 2021, 06:26:03 PM
So many sports less expensive with fields/pools/gyms close to home and ways to practice in the backyard and with far less initial cost output.
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Reply #7:
 December 10, 2021, 07:42:58 AM
Black Bear is bringing good quality hockey back by getting kids on the ice more.  I see all the negative comments but my son has thrived since they took over.  People should be concerned with coaches just trying to win at all costs and the Atlantic district being weak on enforcement of rules.  Just in the last few months match penalties have been wiped away with hearings set the day after an incident almost as if the referees that reported incidents don’t matter.  The state of youth hockey in this area has severely dropped and Black Bear is trying to bring back the game.
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Reply #8:
 December 10, 2021, 10:49:29 AM
Someone drinking the Kool Aid

Making youth hockey at AA, A, B levels for profit is just wrong

Some of the individuals that have been “bought” (or “hired”) should be ashamed

This will end badly, just wait

I also think NJYHL stays relatively strong, core franchises have stayed, DVHL on the other hand has been hit hard

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Reply #9:
 December 10, 2021, 03:22:51 PM
My son plays out of a BB rink.  On one hand, I appreciate the upgrades BB made to the rink. 

What upgrades? Rev Gardens is exactly like Pulley left it. Boards still held up by 2x4s and string, boards still uneven and leaning, same junk zambonis. It's lipstick on a pig. They painted the entrance way and put new bathroom fixtures on the sinks. The place still smells like leaking propane and urine. BCI still looks the same as 20 years ago and it's probably still the same glass. They are doing nothing more than the original rink owners were bandaids on everything. That's to convince the families why the need a thousand more from every player. You're being scammed!
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