Danny Briere

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

philadelphia-rebels-carson-briere.jpg
John Boruk/CSNPhilly.com

There's a new game in town: The Philadelphia Rebels

The opportunity to watch a Briere play again in Philadelphia will be an exciting reality for hockey fans this season.

No, Danny Briere isn’t coming out of retirement as the former Flyers forward has committed to handling the day-to-day operations of the organization’s newest ECHL team.  

However, Briere will be keeping close tabs on his younger son, Carson, who’s currently on the Philadelphia Rebels' 30-man roster and is setting his sights on making the team’s final cuts during training camp.

“It’s great,” Briere said Monday. “Growing up here for most of my life, I love Philly. It’s fun getting to play in the same city that [my dad] did. Whenever I think of him playing, I always think of that playoff run [in 2010] for the Flyers.”

After spending the past two seasons at IceWorks in Aston, Pennsylvania, the NAHL’s (North American Hockey League) Rebels are moving their operation to the Penn Ice Rink at the Class of 1923 Arena, where they made the formal announcement on Monday. It will be the organization’s third different home rink in the past four seasons after relocating from the Rio Grande Valley in 2015.

“It was a no-brainer,” team owner Marko Dundovich said. “When the opportunity presented itself, it was very easy. I think it will give the boys a better opportunity to play, get them seen and I think it’s going to continue to grow here, and our business and organization will do much better here.”

The Rebels and junior hockey simply didn’t attract a broad appeal in the Philadelphia suburbs like ownership had hoped, and as a result, attendance lagged as the team typically averaged around 125 fans a game.

“It was the first time we tried Junior A hockey here,” Dundovich said. “If we had a 300-, 400- or 500-person fan base, we would have been OK in Aston, but I think it was tough to sell a junior hockey ticket in Aston. It’s a difficult sell in a small town.”   

Conversely, hockey fans in Philadelphia haven’t had much of an alternative to the Flyers since the Phantoms left the city in 2009 for Glens Falls, New York. Rebels forward Aaron Maguyon, who stays with former Flyers captain Keith Primeau throughout the season, feels the team cannot only fill the 2,500-seat ice rink, but the players will greatly benefit from the college vibe.  

“I think it prepares us for the future and playing college hockey, for sure, so in that way, it’s like a sneak peek for what’s to come," Maguyon said. "I think it helps pull guys closer together. We have restaurants we can go to or just activities we can do in the city."

According to the league website, the NAHL set a new single-season NCAA record with 280-plus commitments, and the Rebels had 12 commit to Divison I programs. Head coach Joe Coombs has built a tier-II junior hockey powerhouse over the past two years. Last season, the Rebels finished with the NAHL’s best regular-season record, advancing to the championship game of the Robertson Cup in Duluth, Minnesota, where they came up short in a 2-0 loss to the Lone Star Brahmas. 

“This is business,” Coombs said. “Let’s bring the game to the people. Over the last two years, we struggled with our attendance. I didn’t even know this place was here — UPenn hockey rink — and we couldn’t think of a better venue right here in University City to try and market our brand of hockey and bring our game to the people.”  

And who knows? You might just see a few former Flyers in the seats, as well.  

Danny Briere to run day-to-day operations of Comcast Spectacor's Alaska Aces

Danny Briere to run day-to-day operations of Comcast Spectacor's Alaska Aces

The Alaska Aces of the ECHL has been purchased by Comcast Spectacor and will relocate to Portland, Maine.

They’ll start playing in 2018-19 at the Cross Insurance Arena under a new name.

The Flyers will oversee the franchise with club president Paul Holmgren as the team’s governor while former player Danny Briere will oversee the day-to-day operations of the team.

"I am very excited about this," Briere said. "We don't start until the following season, so it gives us time to get things in order."

Asked whether this was something he wanted to do after working with the Flyers in the sales department since his retirement or whether this was merely a new opportunity that came along, Briere said, "Both I guess."

"We are excited to reignite the hockey tradition in Portland," Holmgren said. "The Flyers organization has a strong commitment to winning and developing future stars, and we intend to bring that same culture to this franchise.

"We’re also happy to have an opportunity to assist Spectra in its commitment to the Portland region and the Cross Insurance Arena, a great facility that has recently benefited from a major renovation."

There’s a bit of history here to Maine.

In 1977, Spectacor purchased an AHL expansion franchise — the Maine Mariners — to play at Cumberland County Civic Center.

They were a Flyers affiliate until 1983 and played in Portland through 1992, before being replaced by the Portland Pirates.

The Mariners won the Calder Cup in each of their first two seasons, and added a third in 1983-84.  

The Reading Royals will remain the Flyers' ECHL affiliate.

Comcast Spectacor will soon begin hiring staff, establishing a team website, and naming the club.