Superior Internationtal Junior Hockey League cancels season for Clydesdales

A beleaguered Duluth Clydesdales franchise had its membership revoked in the Superior International Junior Hockey League on Tuesday effective immediately, the league announced.

Low roster numbers and financial difficulties led to the decision by the league board of governors, said Clydesdales owner Butch Williams of Duluth.

The third-year team was last in the six-team Tier II Junior A league and had won just twice this season. The Clydesdales cancelled two games last weekend and had about 15 games remaining in the regular season.

“We have no intention of closing up shop,” Williams said Tuesday night. “Our intent is to appeal the decision to the league, or Hockey Canada. If we are turned down there’s a possibility of finishing our season playing exhibition games against Tier II or Tier III teams in Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan.”

The Clydesdales had a league minimum of 15 players last week, but three players have since left the team, said Williams. He said injuries, specifically concussions, have also contributed to a lack of players available for games.

Duluth has had four coaches in three seasons. Aaron Haupert started 2012-13 behind the bench and then was replaced by Ben Johnson in November, after 20 games. Both are from Duluth.

The Superior International Junior Hockey League, for players looking to stay in hockey and attract college interest, is a step below the U.S. Hockey League. Most teams ask players to finance their participation in a 56-game season, with the Clydesdales requiring a high-end fee of $5,000 to $7,500 per player.

Teams are also required to pay the league $5,000 annually and the Clydesdales are a month late on their final payment of $1,500, said Williams.

“The league cited us for low (roster) numbers and because we still owe on our installment fee,” said Williams. “We think the action was unwarranted.”

Williams said interest in buying the franchise has been shown by Twin Ports investors and he is weighing his options.

Also in the league are the first-place Minnesota Wilderness, based in Cloquet, and the Minnesota Iron Rangers, based in Hoyt Lakes, along with Dryden, Thunder Bay and Fort Frances, all in Ontario. The league is based in Thunder Bay.

“Duluth is a great hockey market and the success of our two other Minnesota-based organizations this season bodes well for the league. We certainly look forward to working with the people in Duluth in an effort to reestablish a franchise there in the not too distant future,” league president and commissioner Ron Whitehead said in a statement.