A Hockey Oddity as One Team Skates to Victory When the Home Team Decides to...Stay Home

This minor league result had some hockey writers scratching their heads.

In minor league hockey, you are certain to see some things that can veer into the unusual, but in an unusual development on Sunday, there was a unique game. Sort of. In the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), the Quad City Storm came away with a victory over the Vermillion County Bobcats – by taking the ice and not scoring a goal. 

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“Most bizarre thing I’ve seen in 40 years covering pro hockey,” writes local sports columnist and former player, Dave Eminian. The SPHL is an unaffiliated bus league, with 11 teams in the south, and a few peppered in the Illinois region, including the Bobcats. Neighboring Quad City came into Danville, Illinois, and suited up against the Bobcats – only the home team did not

Word began trickling out about a lack of players for the roster, a question of not having a coach, and ultimately, the Storm conducted its pre-skate, stood for the national anthem, and then settled in for the faceoff – against no opponent.

The Bobcats are only in their second year in the league, and the franchise has been mired in poor operations. Dismal results have led to diminished fans turning out, (the Storm appeared before what could be called a “milling room only” crowd), and cash flow has been an issue. There have been rumblings of discord, leading to some league rescheduling of Bobcats games, and the rumors of players and staff being underpaid seem to have led to a player walkout at the late hour.

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In the one and a half years that the Vermillion County team has played, they have managed only nine wins over the course of 86 games. Attendance has been hovering at a few hundred per game. The roster has seen players walking away and it was said that they were down to possibly putting out only ten skaters on Sunday. At the last minute, even those players remaining were unwilling to take the ice.

As possibly the biggest indicator of the franchise dysfunction there is this statistic – over the span of fewer than two seasons the Bobcats have gone through ten coaches. That amounts to more bench bosses than victories in the team’s truncated history. 

One nice component to come out of the game was the behavior of the Storm players. The home team was to have a post-game skate on the ice with fans, but with their lack of arrival, the Storm stayed out on the ice and skated with the opposing fans, to try to salvage something out of this calamitous meeting.

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