New league keeps aims, salaries low

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:49 AM ET

Another option for locked-out National Hockey Leaguers could be available in October, albeit it's a tight squeeze. The Northern League of Professional Hockey announced plans to operate in the Ontario/New York/New England area in 2005-06 with modest aims and payrolls.

"We'll keep it simple," NLPH president Jeff Grable, a Philadelphia businessman, said. "We're single-A, just like baseball, and we're not aspiring to be anything else. We're looking at mid-size markets that didn't do well in the AHL. We're not trying to compete with the NHL or anyone else."

Grable and partners, which include former Hamilton Bulldogs president Cary Kaplan, have looked at St. Catharines, Welland, Cornwall, North Bay, Brantford and the Windsor-region community of Lasalle, as well as Niagara Falls and Utica, N.Y., Hampton Roads and Huntington, Va., and Worcester, Mass. They want locales with 2,500- to 4,000-seat arenas, hoping to fill them with $7-$10 ticket holders and players making $275-$550 US a week.

ONE BIG NAME PER TEAM

One spot per team will be kept open for a big name, but one cannot have played more than 288 minor pro/NHL games. Grable cautioned they weren't running a home for stars on the wane or those who might still be looking for work in six months.

"We're not going to try to recycle five or six NHLers (at big prices)," Grable said. "We have a salary cap. We'll have a $50,000 franchise fee and an $800,000 operating budget per team."

"Five teams is the target," Grable said. "We don't want to force this and fall flat on our faces. But does Kissimmee, Fla., deserve a minor-league team and not North Bay or Cornwall?"

The NLPH will borrow from the East Coast Hockey League's rulebook, and have no-touch icing, as well as full two-minute power plays and consider goalies to be fair game out of their crease.


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