First Black Bears Acquire from Kenai River

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Via @BlackBearsNAHL

A few days late, but the first two rosters players were announced for the Maryland Black Bears, as a deal was made with the Kenai River Brown Bears, which sent Carter Wade (’98) and Luke Posner (’99) to Maryland for what appears to be future considerations, though nothing was put as a return.

The move was a decent one for Maryland, as they’ll immediately be bringing in older players who have experience at the NAHL level to help mentor the other players who may be getting their first shot at this chance.

Wade finished his second season in Kenai River, putting up three goals and 14 points in his 88 games over two seasons, as well as serving as an alternate captain last year. Wade comes from Ephrata, Washington and came out of the Everett Jr. Silvertips program before jumping to the NAHL in 2015-16 with the Odessa Jackalopes before getting a taste of the USHL in two games with the Sioux City Musketeers. After that season, Wade moved to Kenai River before heading now to Maryland. The big stat for Wade is his 407 PIMs in the last two seasons, which means the Black Bears may have found their enforcer already.

Posner finished his first year in the NAHL with five goals and 27 points in 56 games after a high school career in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. Posner captained his Mahtomedi Zephyrs get to the Class A State Tournament his senior season, though they were eliminated in the first round. Described as a slippery player, Posner was sixth on the Brown Bears in points in his rookie year. A hot start helped Posner, with 11 points in his first seven games, but it cooled as the team cooled down. A new start in Maryland could help him get back on track.

With speed and some toughness on the roster already, the Black Bears are setting things in motion for the new younger class coming in. The NAHL will hold their draft on June 5th, which will be another step in the Maryland Black Bears molding their team either through the draft or making trades to get some established players on their roster.

Black Bears Welcome Former Hound Into the Den

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Another step was made in building the Maryland Black Bears first season in the NAHL, this time with naming their head coach and general manager. While they could have gone on the inside with the variety of coaches in the systems, they decided to go well outside the Maryland space by hiring Clint Mylymok from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior League.

Mylymok is coming off of four seasons at Notre Dame, where he went 114-90-13-13 in that time, as well as reaching the Anavet Cup Final for the SJHL champion in his first season of 2014-15. This season, the Hounds under Mylymok went 29-24-1-4 and lost in the Wildcard portion of the playoffs.

While he bounced around in California for a bit after originally being born in Ontario, Mylymok played in the Notre Dame prep system before going to Western University in Ontario and then hung up his skates, aside from stepping in during an emergency goalie role for the Columbia Inferno in 2003-04. Aside from that, Mylymok plied his trade in the front office in Columbia and El Paso of the Central League before going back to Canada for coaching in the lower Ontario junior levels before going to Notre Dame as an assistant coach first, then into the head coach/GM role. In addition, Mylymok has been in Hockey Canada’s radar, coaching Team Saskatchewan in the last two seasons at the WHL Cup for U16 players in the WHL boundaries.

To bring in this sort of coach and GM to help craft this team from the ground up shows that the Black Bears won’t be messing around with pinning down the proper talent to make this team successful and to display the top talent that needs to be displayed on and off the ice. While it remains to be seen how Coach Mylymok will put as a priority, the resume he has will definitely get some eyes on the Maryland Black Bears as they start their first year.

Black Bears Create Pipeline to NAHL and Beyond

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On Wednesday, the Maryland Black Bears further their push to keep the best players from Maryland in Maryland, as well as bringing in an outside source  to help keep their pipeline strong. The Black Bears announced they have formed a partnership with Team Maryland in their Eastern Hockey League and AAA programs, as well was a partnership with the Mercer (NJ) Chiefs.

It’s almost a no-brainer that Team Maryland and the Black Bears would have a partnership, as the brass of Team Maryland was a big pusher when it came to talk to Black Bear Sports Group about bringing in a high-level junior league to the Maryland area. This working partnership will allow the Black Bears to display Maryland-grown talent, while also give incentive for kids to play on the Team Maryland squads– as if there wasn’t one prior.

Despite being in New Jersey, the Mercer Chiefs are also connected, as the Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton Township, NJ is one of the arenas that Black Bear Sports Group has under their umbrella. The Chiefs program runs from the Squirt Minor level to the U18 AAA level, which having this not only gives another region to pick from in the Mid-Atlantic, but also gives the younger players something to strive for as they advance in hockey.

The one thing that the Black Bears and this ownership group is doing is creating a bit of a family atmosphere to this team. While some might think it’s a little too much of staying inside the bubble, the fact they’re trying to make the most of their investments not only in Maryland– but with all their holdings.

If their alumni is anything, the pipeline is strong with Team Maryland. Sam Anas (Iowa Wild), Mikie Chen (Knoxville Ice Bears), William Nylander (Toronto Maple Leafs), and Nick Sorkin (Wheeling Nailers) all came up through the Team Maryland system at one point or another, but had to move elsewhere to get bigger exposure than they had. With the NAHL now putting stakes in the ground– odds are a lot of the next class of players will not need to go far in order to get the exposure others had to leave home to get.

Welcome the Black Bears

After weeks of waiting, the new Maryland NAHL has names and colors. As mentioned prior, the colors are the Maryland flag colors, but the name is a bit odd to the idea of Maryland.

The Black Bears will be the new identity, named after the main holding of the ownership, Black Bear Sports Group. The black bear population in Maryland is primarily in the Western part of the state, very rarely going into the suburbs. The logo and website for the Maryland Black Bears was revealed today.

The logo itself incorporates the Black Bear Sports Group logo with a wilderness scene, much akin to the Minnesota Wild motif. The colors are black, red, yellow, and white.

While it’s not the Crabs or anything of that sort, it’s a solid name and solid logo. This is the first of many things to come for this new team.

Closer Look at Maryland’s NAHL Team; Team Name Coming Soon

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As you may have seen here, I’m quite excited for the NAHL to come to Maryland. For someone who played in the Maryland hockey system, this is something that was lacking when I was growing up. However, with the wave of players being born in Maryland and not having the chance to play at home, this is the perfect time to keep the players in the area and play a high level of hockey.

“We’ve worked closely with the people who run Team Maryland and we thought an opportunity like this would give local kids a path to college scholarships without having to leave the area,” mentioned Ryan Scott, VP of the Black Bear Sports Group, owners of Piney Orchard– the home of this new Maryland team. “There’s a lot of times where players are developing in Maryland for pee-wees and bantams, but then have to go to the Northeast for prep schools to get really noticed. With this, we can keep the players here and have them develop that way.”

Working with Team Maryland– who has a minority stake in Piney Orchard, as well as seeing the talent in and around the area with high schoolers and club teams, the hope for this NAHL squad is that they’ll have a local flavor that will help out with getting people interested in the team.

“It’s still a couple years away,” Scott stated about the local flavor, “But this will be a great fit for the players who play with Team Maryland. We’ll be able to retain them and have them play locally rather than having them uproot and move away from home.”

There have been past teams who have been in a developmental league, but as Scott told me– they were a pay-for-play situation, which is no different from youth hockey. With the NAHL, the league is tuition-free so the players won’t incur costs while playing. But NCAA Division I wasn’t in mind for this instance.

“If that happens (D1 hockey), it’s a byproduct,” said Scott. “It’s not really our goal to bring in the NCAA. We wanted to make sure the players who grew up in this area could stay in this area. Also, to be able to attract scouts for this players in this area is always a plus for the development of hockey in the state.”

Another note that I had mentioned before is the placement of Piney Orchard as the home base. Black Bear Sports Group has managed Piney Orchard for some time and Scott had said that it wasn’t in the best shape, but it was still the option they wanted.

“Piney needed some love,” mentioned Scott. “We spent $700,000 renovating the lighting, the boards, the front offices– everything we could think of to bring it up to a modern standard. We also have that great facility that the Capitals left behind when they had their facility here, so the players will have a top notch place to train. Also, while Piney is a little more remote, the arena is better situation for what we wanted than Iceworld in Abingdon.”

Also mentioned was the concession, which Scott said will be run by an unnamed local Italian eatery with a liquor license. Therefore, young and old can enjoy the games– maybe with some lovely Natty Boh.

As this is published, there is not an official team name, but one could be announced but the end of the week or early next week. I was reassured that the Maryland flag color scheme will be in use for it. Other front office decisions will be made in the near future as far as coaching, general manager, and the like.

Stay tuned here for all the updated happenings and more as it comes with this new Maryland team in the NAHL.

Forming the Maryland NAHLers

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It’s been a week since the NAHL announced that they’ll be putting a team at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton for the 2018-19 season. While I’ve reached out to the ownership group to talk about the team and how they are going to get things going, there has not been a reply thus far– so we will only have to speculate. Yes, we had some fun on the April 18th Face Off Hockey Show, there are some ideas that should be floated out there in order to make this team successful in the community and in the league. So– why not have a rough draft here??

Solid Coaching/Management is a Must: When you’re thinking about this league, it’s purely about development and getting these young players to the next level. There’s plenty of candidates out there, but for a first year team in an unnatural location, you’d probably want to have a coach who knows the area not just for people to recognize, but for him to help these players adjust to the area and know how and where to go and where not to. For me, if you can shoot for DeMatha Catholic’s head coach Tony MacAulay— it would be a huge get. Now, it’ll be hard-pressed to get him away from DeMatha– where he has been from 1997 until 2002 and then from 2007 until present day– but it would be a big opportunity for him to get back into a bigger scene, as well as be a huge plus for the development of the players, while bringing a winning pedigree with five state championships to show for his work. If they can convince him and he’s willing– it’d be a huge get for this team.

It’s All in the Name: To a less serious thing– the team name needs to be very Maryland. While the NAHL hyped that Odenton is a suburb of Baltimore– the distance between Odenton and Baltimore is just five miles shorter than Odenton to the DC area. This team needs to be the pride of the entire state rather than one metropolitan area over another. Plus, the amount you could use the flag in the color scheme– though cliche at this point– is perfect for the team to make a splash. Not only that– we all know that branding is a huge deal in these days. If the look is slick, you can have merchandise sold hand over fist. And yes, we’re pushing for “Maryland Crabs” hard for a name– anything that is state related will be solid…but we’ll still call ’em the Crabs.

Embrace Your Surroundings: Sure, the NAHL is looking for high school kids to come and join the league and it could be a competition to some people– the new team needs to embrace the high school hockey culture of Maryland and not only promote themselves to the masses through the Mid Atlantic Prep Hockey League, but promote the local hockey around since the timing of the games will be different in most cases. Hell, even see what it’ll take to get the Capitals on board with this whole thing and see how much you can get promoted that way because that’d surely be a big get for people who may not be able to go and see the Capitals all the time due to location and pricing.¬† On top of that– get the media involved in a big way. The Maryland Gazette is a good start for local news in the Anne Arundel County area, but outside of the newspaper; look at local radio like WNAV in Annapolis, which is owned by Caps super-fan Pat Sajak. Not only that but– hey, Face Off Hockey Show is AA County-based and we’ll promote like no one’s business if you want to be promoted. It’s all about getting the word and the hype out there and people will acknowledge it.

Look to the Future Rink-wise: In February of 2018, the Piney Orchard Ice Arena brass said they were still looking for a second rink to be put in the vicinity. It has been a rumor for the longest time that they wanted to add a rink, so much so that they have wishful thinking on their video boards claiming all events are held at “Rink 1” of a one rink arena. However, with the NAHL team– they should focus around building something bigger than just the idea of a single-sheet of ice like they wanted. Personally– build some stands, updated locker rooms, just a full rebuild of it all in order to keep this team here a long time.

I’m sure this will be a bit of a running list, but it’s a start to making this team successful for the long run of not only the NAHL, but for the interest in area hockey.

Odenton, Maryland Granted NAHL Franchise

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It was announced late Thursday that Odenton, Maryland will be the latest addition to the NAHL for the 2018-19 season, as Piney Orchard Ice Arena will be the home to this currently unnamed team. For someone who played their club hockey career at Piney Orchard (RIP Chesapeake Chiefs), this is an amazing development for hockey in Maryland.

For those who don’t know, the NAHL is the second-tier Junior league, right under the USHL. They’ve been around for 42 years and have teams all over the US and is a great catalyst for players to get to the NCAA level. It will be the first time a team is based out of Maryland, which is a little odd for the placement for the team.

When it comes to hockey in Maryland, which I’m a big supporter of, this is great. This will put a spotlight on the area, and while the kids won’t always be from the Old Line State– the fact that it could give some of the local high school kids something to shoot for on a higher level they probably wouldn’t have had right in their backyard.

NAHL is decent hockey, but I hope people in the area don’t expect Major Juniors like in Canada and northern states– it will be very developmental based and will need a lot of patience for the team to really flourish. Yet, it’s a good first step to really show off how much hockey can be supported in Maryland outside of the Washington Capitals.

About the arena– like I said, I played at Piney as a youth and was there when it opened almost 30 years ago. I’m surprised a place like the Laurel Ice House or Rockville Ice Arena wasn’t a choice, as they are a bit more modern than Piney– but who knows what Piney has in store for upgrades– which I think they’ll need in order to have players as competitive as they need to be in this league.

This is a great day for Maryland hockey. To have a league like this put a team in the central Maryland area is tremendous. If anything, it could get some shine on the college programs in the area and maybe even boost those teams to try and get some D1 consideration– looking at you, Navy and maybe you, Stevenson University— but if nothing else– this is a start of a new era of hockey in Maryland.

Hope you all are along for the ride because I may have to spend a lot of time on this subject going forward.