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Will Birmingham join the Global Hockey League?


May 2, 1990
    Photograph   Photograph
  Michael Gobuty      Dennis Murphy
       
The proposed Global Hockey League will place a franchise in Birmingham, which is scheduled to begin in November of 1990. Hank Salemi, a local representative of principal team owner Richard Gerry, made the announcement.

The GHL was announced on February 9th of this year in Los Angeles.

Birmingham will join Los Angeles, Miami, Cleveland, Albany (NY), and Providence as the North American teams. Canada will have two entries, Saskatoon and Hamilton. Plans call for teams overseas to be located in London, Lyons (France), Milan, Rotterdam, Prague, and Berlin. Two more franchises will be added in Europe and four more in North America at a later date. The GHL is currently in negotiations to place the first professional sports team in Russia with a franchise in Moscow.

Gerry has just completed negotiations for use of the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Coliseum yesterday and has returned home to Roanoke, Virginia. "Richard Gerry is pursuing local ownership and will have more to say about the league and the Birmingham franchise when the ownership is in place. He asked us to put out an announcement confirming the franchise because word was already getting out," Salemi said. Gerry was owner of the Roanoke Lancers of the East Coast Hockey League last year and co-owner of the International Hockey League's Denver franchise two years ago. The Denver franchise no longer exists.

The league will try to make their games more attractive to television by having two 30-minute periods instead of three 20-minute periods. Other proposed rule changes are to eliminate the center red line, move the goal nets out by three feet, and have a shootout in case of a tie at the end of regular play. The removal of the red line should open up the rink for longer and more daring passes. The GHL also hopes to eliminate the violence and fighting found in most hockey games by awarding penalty shots for high sticking infractions.

An 80 game schedule for each team is being planned.

The first player draft is set for the first week of June, and each team will have a $2.5 million salary cap. Rumors are that the GHL will target St. Louis Blues winger Brett Hull as their first NHL prize player. The irony is that Hull's father, Bobby, was the first marquee-name player signed by the World Hockey Association.

The GHL's president is Michael Gobuty, who was president of the Winnipeg Jets when they were part of the World Hockey Association. Gobuty said the new league would not merge with the NHL nor would it compete for fan support in NHL cities, "That would be kind of stupid, wouldn't it? We are not going to do that." Regarding how their teams will work within their salary caps, Gobuty said, "We will have other ways of compensating the players but I am not at liberty to talk about that."


May 7, 1990
Gerry meets the Birmingham media at a press conference and tries to assure Birmingham fans that he's here to stay. "I don't want people to think this guy is coming into Birmingham, put all the money in his pocket and leave town. I'm not pleading with people to give me money to operate. It's not pertinent to raise the money locally. I would like to get local participation. After what has happened here with hockey in the past, it will only help fans feel more comfortable and me feel more comfortable. It would add stability and creditability to the organization. Fans don't know who I am, and don't care, but if they see a name they can identify with locally they'll feel more comfortable. I've been around hockey since I was four years old and it is my life. It's what I enjoy and I have made up my mind to do what it takes," the 32 year old Gerry said.

Gerry said he was contacted by league organizers to become an owner. Once he was convinced of the proposed league's future, he considered Orlando, Tampa, Atlanta, and Houston as potential cities to place his franchise before deciding on Birmingham. "I talked to a lot of people, but from what I saw and heard, Birmingham is the best sports town. It had the best facility, and from a business standpoint, it just made sense," Gerry said.

On his failed Denver franchise, Gerry said, "It was a difficult situation. We bought the franchise three days before the season opened and trying to put things together and sell advertising was difficult. Roanoke was another difficult situation. I'm sure you've heard there are unpaid bills. I am in the process of trying to sell the team in Roanoke. I want to assure the people of Birmingham I am not leaving Roanoke with unpaid bills. I liked Roanoke and the fans were great. But the guy I bought the team from owned the building and that's where the difficulty came from. I'm not here saying, 'Ok, people, hockey's back in town, come on and support it.' I plan to come in with a first class organization from top to bottom and work hard at marketing and promoting it. This is not a a short-term obligation."

May 8, 1990
Gerry says he expects to name a general manager within two weeks. "I've got my man, but I can't mention his name because he's still under contract in the National Hockey League."

On the type of players fans could expect to see, Gerry said, "We'll have some names hockey fans will recognize. They'll also see some of the greatest young Swedes, Germans, and Czechs available. You'll see a lot of Baby Bulls-type talent. The game is going to be quite different from what people are used to. Our game is going to be much more geared to the European style of play - a lot of skating and passing and less dumping and grinding in the corners."

May 23, 1990
Gerry announces Joe Bucchino as the team's general manager.

Also, the lease with the BJCC has been signed.

"I want the first Global Hockey League championship in this building. I have my eye on a number of players, and I'm in constant contact with them. I plan to sign four to six NHL veterans and build around them. I've been talking to four coaching prospects. I hope to name the coach within a week," Bucchino said.

June 8, 1990
Global Hockey League co-founders Dennis Murphy and Michael Gobuty were on hand as Gerry announces the GHL has decided to wait a year before beginning play.

"I know we had some enthusiasm building and I don't want fans in Birmingham to think they have been burned again. I don't think that is the case at all. I apologize to the fans and hope they put their enthusiasm on hold for a few more months. I don't think anyone was more excited than I was. I would have done anything in my power to play in the '90-91 season. We were ready in Birmingham. But circumstances developed that couldn't be overcome. It was mostly arena availability and scheduling. Something can always come up, but I can't see anything keeping us from playing next year," Gerry said.

Gobuty added, "The business people are very strong, they believe in Global, they believe the idea is right. But we could not come together in 1990-91. We must do this properly and use our business acumen because hockey is a business."

Murphy was more direct, saying, "We have some major divisions in the house."

Epilogue
The divisions Dennis Murphy spoke of were apparently too deep and numerous for them to overcome. The Global Hockey League never played a single game.

Hockey did return to the city in 1992 when the Birmingham Bulls joined the East Coast Hockey League.
 
 
 
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Last update: August 15, 2018