What the puck is going on?

December 11, 2014

The recent sale of the Perani Arena and Event Centre in Flint figures to lead to the winds of change affecting more than one junior hockey team and league.

For starters, the Flint-based Michigan Warriors of the North American Hockey League are expected to be the first out the door when their lease at Perani Arena expires at the end of the 2014-2015 season.

Both Rolf Nilsen and Costa Papista — on behalf of IMS USA Inc., which is the new owner of Perani Arena — are on record as saying they would like to bring a United States Hockey League franchise to Flint effective the 2015-2016 season.

While the notion is that IMS USA is looking to get a USHL expansion team to play out of Perani Arena, sources are saying that Nilsen and Papista have also reached out to ownership of existing junior teams about possibly relocating to Flint.

According to the sources, Nilsen and Papista have approached the ownership of both the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL and the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League about moving to Flint. IMS USA — again through Nilsen and Papista — have also inquired about buying the Lumberjacks and the Whalers and moving one or the other to Flint, sources are saying.

Of note, the 46-year old Papista is a former OHL defenceman-left winger with the Sudbury Wolves and London Knights and erstwhile general manager of the Saginaw Spirit. In fact, Papista oversaw the transfer of the old North Bay Centennials franchise to Saginaw.

Back to the current tenant at Perani Arena, the NAHL Warriors are now firmly focused on selling and/or relocating their franchise, according to coach-general manager Moe Mantha, who is also a part owner of the team.

Mantha said the Warriors — who are in their fifth year in Flint as members of the NAHL — have been advised by IMS USA to look for a new home effective the 2015-2016 season.

The 53-year old Mantha — a former OHL defenceman with the erstwhile Toronto Marlies who went on to play in more than 650 games in the National Hockey League — said he will not be part of any relocation by the Warriors.

Mantha, who resides with his wife in Ann Arbor, Michigan, also owns a home in the northern Ontario town of Sturgeon Falls, which is where he grew up. He said he and his wife intend to move to back to the Sturgeon Falls full time at the end of the 2014-2015 hockey season. Mantha’s parents have long owned and operated a successful golf course in Sturgeon Falls.

Currently, the Warriors are one of only two Michigan-based teams in the NAHL, the Soo Eagles being the other. Just two years ago, the NAHL was home to four Michigan teams — the Warriors, Eagles, Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings and Port Huron Fighting Falcons.

But Kalamazoo folded at the end of the 2012-2013 season and Port Huron relocated to Pennsylvania prior to the start of the 2014-2015 campaign and now operates as the Keystone Ice Miners.

Hypothetically, should the Warriors relocate from Flint outside the state, the Soo would be left without a Michigan travel partner, which could lead to a number of possible scenarios for the Eagles.

But let’s not cross that bridge — the International or the Mackinac — unless we come to it.

PHOTO: Costa Papista, on behalf of IMS USA Inc., announces the purchase of the Perani Arena and Event Centre in Flint. (Photo by Mlive.com.)

What you think about “What the puck is going on?”

  1. My opinion is if Plymouth can’t fill a stadium in Metro-Detroit, I don’t think they will fill Flint IMA / Perani Arena. At least in Plymouth the team can draw from Metro-Detroit with a broader economic base to support ticket sales; it would be a shame to see the Whalers leave the Metro area, but economics is business.

    Flint is dead, the City of Burton which borders the IMA is dying, and MT Morris / Genesee TWP does not have a tax base of residents that will faithfully support the team.

    If all these teams move locations, my hopeful speculation would be that the Soo Eagles would look at the travel expenses and maybe consider returning to the NOJHL or join the CIHL; really miss the cross-border rivalry.

  2. Great article Randy one that touched all Bases. I find it very sad that Messers Nilson and Papista have shown very little regard for the NAHL & the Michigan Warriors.

  3. I ask if Rolf Nilsen wants to by a team in the USHL for to have a place for his kid and buddies who play for Little Caesars U18 team .

  4. Costa was in charge of the North Bay Centennials as the Prez and then he was the GM when the Cents moved to Saginaw and if I recall correctly it did not end well in either place.

    1. “he was the GM when the Cents moved to Saginaw and if I recall correctly it did not end well in either place.”

      It ended just fine in Saginaw.

  5. Great article. The LC U18 angle information is very interesting and disheartening. I heard Karmanos would like to move the Whalers to Chatham and cannot see the Lumberjacks moving with their following and their more advantageous geographical location for USHL. The USHL I doubt would give them a new franchise with the expansion last year of Mad Caps and Bloomington and potential resurfacing of Indiana Ice next year. What is the possibility of the Warriors relocating to USA NTDP’s soon to be former digs at the Ice Cube in A2? They have the training facility and offices in place? I would hate to lose both the Warriors and Whalers and the possible effect on the Eagles. This is a turbulent time for Jr hockey in Michigan. We will have to wait and see, when the dust settles. I would like to see the new owners support the team in place and give the Warriors a chance. They are a well respected organization in a great league. With the proposed improvements and some decent marketing the Warriors could make some noise.

  6. Basshat:
    Who are you trying to kid?
    Costa Papista was in fact fired as the GM of the Saginaw Spirit in January of 2004 after less than 2 years on the job. I would not call that a case of ending “just fine”.

  7. I’ll be bummed if the Warriors leave Flint. They have a great coach, a lot of Michigan kids on the roster, and just this last month they sent both goalies up to the USHL. The NAHL overall is thriving, with a record number of NCAA commitments last year. Also, the Warrior youth hockey organization (which, thanks to the current arrangement, uses the Warrior name and logo for free, btw) has now grown to 12 travel teams – that’s a lot of Flint kids staying home as opposed to driving 1-2 hours to play elsewhere. Seems like Flint is better suited to a NAHL team, for now anyway.

  8. NB1975 I believe that Costa was paid to bring the Centennials to Saginaw; his dismissal was a well thought out compensation package… This just avoided someone getting sued in my opinion.

  9. Anything that has Costa Papista name on it will never end well for any one but him. Do not get involved, do not support===you will be disappointed.

  10. The OHL application to move a team or get a new franchise deadline has passed, according to the Flint Journal. Can anybody explain whether that means an OHL team is still an option for Perani for 2015-2016 or not?

  11. You should all be thankful that Mr.Nilsen has taken on the task to try and bring back the downtrodden economy of Flint by purchasing and renovating the Peraini arena. Nothing but a positive for the area. Thanks Mr. Nielsen. Mike Dackiw diehard hockey fan.

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