Pertaining to and having possession of the Port Huron Fighting Falcons, Maribeth Hayes is still the owner of the North American Hockey League team, at least for now.
But the long-term future of the NAHL in Port Huron is most likely tied to a local group taking control of the franchise.
Hayes, who resides in California, is in her third season as owner of the Fighting Falcons, who won the NAHL North Division championship in 2011-12 after finishing with the league's worst record in 2010-11.
The recent on-ice success of the Fighting Falcons, however, has not translated into off-ice security.
The Fighting Falcons sold a mere $35,000 in corporate sponsorship for the current season, a major shortfall that resulted in the recent firing of director of business operations Julie Crankshaw.
As well, multiple sources have confirmed that Steve Shannon has been relieved of his duties as vice-president and general manager and as of this writing, is only serving as the Fighting Falcons head coach.
Hayes, at present, is not commenting on the state of the Fighting Falcons franchise, though it has been confirmed that she is still owner, at least for now.
The ideal situation would have Hayes relinquish control of the Fighting Falcons to the NAHL, who would then try to seek out a local group that would operate the team.
Port Huron is known as a good hockey town. But it's becoming evident that Hayes is having difficulty running the Fighting Falcons from her California home.
What is also evident is that Crankshaw fell fall short of the team's projected goal of raising $100,000 in corporate sponsorship to help operate the franchise for the current season.
As well, sources have confirmed that Shannon is no longer VP and GM and that Hayes has only allowed him to remain as coach so as to not disrupt the on-ice performance of the Fighting Falcons players while a hoped local takeover of the team's operations is sought.
Hayes, it's been learned, is furious that Shannon leaked details of a proposed agreement with the NAHL to the Fighting Falcons players last week.
"The bottom line is, Maribeth no longer trusts Steve to be the manager of her team," a source close to the situation told me. "Maribeth feels as though Steve has betrayed her. She told me herself that she thinks Steve is full of sh-t."
Hayes, it's also been learned, has come to the conclusion that the Port Huron franchise can only be successful if operated by a local group.
Thus far, no local group has made an official offer to take over as managing operators of the franchise.
What is somewhat complicated is the fact that Hayes, it's also been learned, cannot sell the franchise outright pending settlement of a lawsuit with her original partner in the Fighting Falcons, Ernie Hicke.
But a lawyer with knowledge of the situation said that Hayes could in effect fold her company that owns the Fighting Falcons, then turn over operation of the team to the NAHL, who could then seek out a local group that would operate the franchise.
Ian Miller, a 1992 birth year forward with the Fighting Falcons, has a Division 1, National Collegiate Hockey Association commitment to play at Lake Superior State University effective the 2013-14 season.
Miller, a Fraser, Mich. native is in his third season with Port Huron after being obtained from the Michigan Warriors during the 2010-11 campaign.
Miller had a breakout season with Port Huron in 2011-12, scoring 26 goals for the NAHL North Division champions.
After winning only 19 of 60 games and missing the playoffs during the 2011-12 season, Jamestown Ironmen continue to be the early-season success story of the 2011-12 NAHL campaign.
The Ironmen sit atop the North Division with a very-impressive record of 10-2-2 following a weekend sweep of the high-octane Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings.
"We are having fun out there," explained Ironmen coach-general manager Dan Daikawa. "We have had some good game plans and done well executing them on the ice. Our team has a lot of confidence, trusts in each other and is doing what is necessary to win games."
When the Ironmen play host to the Soo Eagles in a scheduled Thursday, January 31 game at Jamestown Savings Bank Arena, start time for the game will be moved from 7:30 at night to 11:00 in the morning.
The morning game will be part of a promotion the Ironmen has planned that will allow students at all schools in Jamestown into the game with the Soo free of charge.