Future remains uncertain for Thunder

Published 9:52 pm Friday, November 27, 2009

The Albert Lea Thunder returned to practice Friday at the City Arena with their future still uncertain.

The owners of the Albert Lea Thunder have until midnight Friday to come up with nearly $400,000 in order to avoid being terminated by the North American Hockey League after the league found the team engaged in a “pay to play” model, misrepresented itself to the league as being 100 percent owned by Barry Soskin and failed to post a letter of credit or performance bond to the league.

Whether any decision will be announced Saturday remains unknown and the team has a game to play Saturday against Owatonna in Owatonna.

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According to an article by Stephen Heisler on AmericanJuniorHockey.com, NAHL Commissioner Mark Frankenfeld told Albert Lea head coach Chuck Linkenheld to prepare his team for Saturday’s contest with Owatonna.

Heisler updated his Web site Friday night with a post from Linkenheld and Linkenheld was quoted as saying, “Getting a win tomorrow would be great for these kids. They have been through so much in the last 10 days, and look forward to moving forward without the distraction associated with the controversy.”

It would appear that the likely conclusion would be the team getting terminated, but that doesn’t mean the team will disappear entirely. The more likely scenario is that the league would assume control until a new owner is found.

Linkenheld also told Heisler that there are local people interested in buying the team, though the two sides are far from reaching a purchase price. The two sides are separated by an upwards of $350,000, according to Heisler.

There is the possibility the league would fold the team and have a dispersal draft of the current players, but it doesn’t appear that will happen with Frankenfeld telling Linkenheld to prepare the team to play Saturday.

Linkenheld nor Frankenfeld have responded to numerous phone calls seeking comment from the Albert Lea Tribune.

Heisler is also reporting that USA Hockey Junior Council Chairman Dan Esdale spoke with Frankenfeld regarding the violations and Esdale told Heisler that USA Hockey will not get involved until the matter comes to a conclusion with the NAHL. Team owners Barry Soskin and Jim Perkins are likely facing a indefinite ban from hockey.