Hockey May Be Put On Ice For Another Year

In a lightly furnished office covered with hockey memorabilia, the Sea Wolves  brass focused on its post Katrina game plan.

Mike Rogers is one of the team's owners.

"We're committed to stay," Rogers said.

But the Sea Wolves' commitment may not be enough to bring hockey back to Biloxi in October.

Steffon Walby is the team's head coach.

"I know that as we're not standing in the Coliseum here today, to come up with some positive answer on the 27th might be difficult."

The 27th, as in March 27th. That's the deadline the ECHL gave the Sea Wolves to decide on its immediate future, because the league has to start making next year's schedule. This Monday, the ECHL must know in writing if the Mississippi Coast Coliseum will be ready to host hockey games in this arena next fall.

Bill Holmes runs the arena.

"If March 27 is the date, and we haven't settled with our insurance company, then we won't be able to play this season," he admitted.

The Coliseum needs an insurance check to cover broken windows and doors, a hole in the wall, a damaged ice chiller, missing boards and glass, and repairs to the center ice scoreboard. Without the check and those repairs, hockey's return this fall seems out of the question.

"We want to play hockey. We love hockey," said Holmes. "But there are priorities in life."

And that's why the head coach knows this may be one game he just can't win.

"I'm optimistic. But at the same time realistic," he said.

He also admitted to being angry and disappointed, "because at this time, this will be five years of my personal work, along with the ownership group, their work and their dollars that might have to be put off for another year."

If there is no hockey in 2006-07, the Mississippi Sea Wolves will try again in 2007-08.

"We're here for the long haul," Rogers said. "And if the fans stick with us, we'll be here in 2007 if we have to, but we really want to play in 2006. The coast doesn't need to wait another year."

ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna told WLOX News his league's long term goal is to get hockey back in Biloxi. However, "As sympathetic as we are about the situation in Mississippi," he said, "we just can't ask 24 or 25 other teams to put life on hold to wait for a decision."

That's why the league gave the Sea Wolves the March 27th deadline.

McKenna said that despite the voluntary suspension, the Sea Wolves were still considered a viable member of his league, and "they have every right to come back and play."