When the Mahoning Valley Phantoms hit the ice for the first time at the Chevrolet Centre tonight, NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld will be on hand.
Frankenfeld, who is in his second year as commissioner, will drop the puck for a ceremonial faceoff along with Phantoms president Bruce J. Zoldan before the start of the Phantoms’ contest with the St. Louis Bandits.
Frankenfeld says that the league is very happy to have one of its franchises move into a state-of-the-art arena like the Chevrolet Centre.
“I think it says a lot about the quality of our product, both on and off the ice,” said the commissioner. “It certainly helps raise the visibility of our league both locally and nationally, and that’s nothing but a positive from both a business and player development standpoint.”
The 5,500-seat Chevrolet Centre, built in 2005, is currently the largest home venue among the 19 teams in the NAHL. Not only will the arena host 21 Phantoms home games this season, but also the six-team North Division Showcase, scheduled for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.
Frankenfeld says that he’s thrilled to have such a big event held at the Chevrolet Centre.
“Having our league on display at one of the premiere junior hockey facilities in North America is exciting,” he said. “It’s events like the North Division Showcase that make our league so special, and to play it in a venue like the Chevrolet Centre can’t help but add to the energy for the players, fans and scouts.”
On the ice, the thought of the last two Robertson Cup Championship Tournament finals will be on the minds of a lot of players.
In those two most recent championship rounds, the Bandits defeated the Phantoms by scores of 8-4 in 2007 and 5-2 in 2008. With the two championship results on the side of St. Louis, one might think the Phantoms will be completely motivated by revenge.
Second-year Phantoms defenseman John Houston, however, says that’s not the case.
“There are only a handful of guys back on St. Louis from last year,” said Houston, who was on the 07-08 runner-up team, “so it’s not as personal for us as you might think. Sure, we can’t stand St. Louis, but it’s a new team and a new staff there. We just want to win two games.”
Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt agrees with Houston.
“We definitely need to keep our emotions in check,” said Mainhardt. “There have been so many changes with that St. Louis team; the only thing left over from the teams that beat us right now are the jerseys. It’s a new team there, so for us it’s going to be business as usual.”
St. Louis enters the weekend series with a league-best record of 16-2-1 and the top scoring offense in the league as well. Add to that the bulls-eye every defending champion wears, and Mainhardt says that the pressure is actually on the Bandits.
“They’re the team to beat right now,” said sixth-year Phantoms coach, “so I think we need to take the approach that we have nothing to lose, keep our emotions in check and focus on the task at hand.”