Hockey fans in Jamestown have seen this play before.
Three times prior to the Ironmen, junior hockey has taken up residence at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, and all three times the teams failed to stay.
In the beginning, it seemed the Jamestown Titans were done in by poor leaguewide leadership. After the Titans was the embarassing departure of the Jamestown Vikings, who destroyed a local lodge after learning that they would no longer be playing hockey in Jamestown. The only team that has lasted for more than one season was the Jamestown Jets, the Ironmen's predecessor.
There are dozens of reasons why hockey hasn't yet thrived at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena. The local economy hasn't been very strong over the last couple of years, making it difficult for families to bring their children to games. One would think Jamestown's thriving youth hockey organizations would help. Hundreds of local youth hockey players visit the arena multiple times a week for practices and games, but with their schedules running the same time of year as the Ironmen, it can be hard for young hockey players to have time to watch live hockey. The New York-Penn League's Jamestown Jammers rarely draw more than 1,000 people to their games, which benefit from taking place in the summer when local high school sports aren't dominating the evening schedule. The Ironmen competed directly with popular high school sports most Friday nights throughout their season.
A league like the North American Hockey League didn't help the Ironmen's situation. The closest Ironmen away games are in Michigan while the schedule sometimes requires the team to travel as far as Fresno, Calif., Wenatchee, Wash. and even Kenai River, Alaska. Travel like that isn't cheap and requires deep pockets from an owner.
There aren't easy solutions to any of those issues, but junior league hockey has a place in Jamestown. Perhaps it's the Ironmen in 2014-15. Maybe it's another team in another league after Kurt Silcott, Jamestown Savings Bank Arena general manager, and local hockey supporters find a team willing to take a chance on a small city with a beautiful facility.
There are a lot of questions right now that remain to be answered. There is only one thing of which we are certain - Jamestown deserves another chance to make junior league hockey work. We support the efforts to provide a high-level hockey team in Jamestown. Kurt Silcott, Jamestown Savings Bank Arena general manager, has shown he is very capable of leading this effort in 2014-15. We encourage the community to support the effort as well.