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River Drivers drafted after team suspends operations

by Jody Houle
Contributing Writer - Berlin Reporter

The Berlin River Drivers, shown in classic Berlin Maroon jerseys, have suspended operations and some of the players have recently been drafted to other FHL teams. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
June 19, 2017
BERLIN Reality has set in as the Berlin River Drivers players have been drafted to other Federal Hockey League teams last week. It was a shock to the town when it was announced last month in a press release that the Berlin team suspended operations due to financial reasons.

The River Drivers brought the spirit of ice hockey back to "Hockey Town USA" with two great seasons starting in 2015/16. The team climbed to the championship finals this year. Home games were played at the Notre Dame Arena and each time was filled with hundreds of enthusiastic fans.

The players came from all over the country and the world and stayed in Berlin during the game seasons. They hosted a number of public events such as meet-and-greets and cancer benefits. They hung out with kids and attended school sports events to show support. They bowled with Special Olympians and played basketball with the Berlin unified team. They skated with kids at the arena.

In the press release, "changes in infrastructure, an increase in projected expenses, and demands from the league" led to a drive to sell at least 1,000 pre-season passes to cover expenses. The release stated that sales "didn't come anywhere close to meeting this necessary mark."

The annual budget with six teams is approximately $400,000 and up according to the release. Overhead expenses include housing, insurance, payroll and travel among other expenses. Teams are located in Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Michigan and Ontario. The league is also expanding with a team, the Carolina Thunderbirds, out of Winston-Salem, N.C. Traveling from Berlin is described as "atrocious."

The release also stated that more sponsors, ticket sales and concessions sales were needed to maintain the River Drivers.

The FHL announced the dispersal draft results on Friday and the picks are as followed:

1. Carolina - David Brancik

2. Watertown - Jiri Pestuka

3. Cornwall - Matt Fuller

4. Port Huron - Nick Wright

5. Watertown - Josh Pietrantonio

6. Danbury - Matt Kaludis

7. Danville - John Celli

8. Carolina - Jan Salak

9. Watertown - Tyler Howe

10. Cornwall - Stanislav Vlasov

11. Port Huron - Edgar Ozolins

12. Watertown - Cameron Dimmitt

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