Ottawa joins new hockey league

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:22 PM ET

OTTAWA — Basem Awwad is ready to roll the dice.

The Orleans businessman, who owns two Greek on Wheels franchises and also works as an Internet marketer, confirmed Thursday he’s going to bring a franchise to the area next November when the Federal Hockey League begins its inaugural season.

But the Ottawa club — which will announce its nickname along with its GM-coach during a press conference on Jan. 19 — will play on the outskirts of the city, in nearby Rockland in the 1,000-seat facility Lalonde Arena until a new 3,000-seat rink is built in 2011.

Awwad said he is studying the use of the name Patriotes for the club.

“After meeting with these guys (from the FHL), it seemed like they knew their hockey,” said Awwad, 30, who attempted to purchase a Jr. C team in Cumberland before deciding to take this route. “From what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of hockey talent in Ottawa. As soon as they’re done Jr. A or done playing in the OHL, they have nowhere to go.

“This is going to make sense for them. They’re going to be able to play mostly on the weekends and we should be able to put a good team together here that people are going to want to come out and watch.”

FHL commissioner Don Kirnan, a Syracuse businessman, said in a conference call yesterday agreements have also been reached to also place teams in Danbury, Conn., Syracuse/Rome and the Thousand Islands (Alexandria Bay). Agreements are being finalized in Philadelphia and Jamestown.

What the league is trying to capitalize on are the junior hockey markets. With ticket prices in the $5-$10 range, they’ll be in direct competition with the Central Junior Hockey League teams in the Ottawa area. Awwad is confident with the marketing plan of the FHL.

“We want to put together a family entertainment package that’s affordable for people that don’t want to go all the way to Kanata (to see the Senators play),” said Awwad. “That’s why we decided to go (to Rockland). We don’t want to take people away from the 67’s or the Senators. We don’t have the same market.

“I really believe that (it’s going to be successful) and we should be able to get sponsors for every game.”

Kirnan said he doesn’t believe the FHL will be a “one-shot” league.

“We want to start something that is going to have a long-term effect and is going to fill a void for the Northeast,” said Kirnan. “We have done our research, done our analysis and we have been doing this long enough that we know what will work.”

Awwad said he’ll try to bring in a GM/coach with strong ties to the area.

“We want someone with credibility,” said Awwad.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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