‘It Will Be A Quicker Game’
Area fans can expect to see an uptick in the level of hockey being played inside Northwest Arena this season after city and rink officials announced a new eight-year deal to bring the Philadelphia Rebels franchise to Jamestown on Tuesday afternoon.
In addition to the already established Southern Tier Xpress, which recently made a move to the U.S. Premier Hockey League, Jamestown will now host the North American Hockey League Tier II Rebels, which spent last season in Philadelphia after two previous years in Aston, Pa.
“What a great day, what an awesome time to be in Jamestown,” said Jamestown Center City Development Corporation co-president David Leathers. “For the arena, we’re extremely excited to announce the return of top-tier junior hockey to the Jamestown area and to the Northwest Arena.”
When the local ownership goup Jamestown Area Hockey Associates first inked a deal to bring junior hockey back to Jamestown with the Xpress, the goal was always to try and build up the level of young talent to which fans would be exposed.
In doing so the plan was not only to offer fans the best possible experience, but also to grow and develop opportunities for players from Western New York and beyond.
“Since recruiting the Southern Tier Xpress and going through a couple of iterations of that junior hockey team, our dream has always been to return to the top-level hockey competition of the NAHL,” said Dr. Jim Cirbus of JAHA. “Once again we have a great Tier II NAHL hockey team that is going to be highly competitive and hopefully get kids to the next level in Division I hockey and some even to the NHL.”
The Rebels will be playing in the same junior hockey league that was once occupied by the Jamestown Ironmen from 2011-13, and head coach Joe Coombs knows that the difference in talent will be fun to watch from the first puck drop.
“For the casual fan it will be better, it will be quicker that’s for sure. It will be a quicker game,” said Coombs, who also spent four season coaching Tier III hockey with the Dubuque Thunderbirds. “The true hockey fan will know the difference very quickly. The hockey fan will know the difference after a while. I think that it’s a big step from Tier III to Tier II. In general it is just, you are dealing with a more serious athlete. There’s lots of good players at the Tier III level, there’s lots of good ones … ours are just more serious, and it makes for a different environment.”
When looking back at some of the players that he has been fortunate to coach, Coombs mentioned Kristofers Binduls, who spent the 2015-16 season in Aston before heading to Lake Superior State University and then inking a deal with the Washington Capitals.
“We’ve been lucky the last few years to have some world-class players,” Coombs said. “I don’t know if it is every year that we get those type of players. I’d love to, that would be great.”
Team management would like to encourage any families interested in billeting players to contact Northwest Arena staff at 484-2624.