After nearly nine years of ownership and struggles on
and off the ice, Arizona Hawks owner and general manager Greg
Schursky announced Oct. 2 the team has been placed in dormancy and the remainder of the 2017-18 season canceled.
“About 2 p.m. (Oct. 2) I decided to make this team dormant for the remainder of the season,” Schursky said. “I retain ownership and I, along with (head coach Jay Kouris), will start trying to recruit and get players for next season.”
Teams in the Western States Hockey League consist of 16- to 20-year-old amateur players under the Junior A league, working to advance to earn college scholarships, or advance to the next level of professional hockey.
“The WSHL had been following the situation with the Arizona Hawks and were not surprised by the request for dormancy,” said WHSL Commissioner Ron White. “The WSHL is in the process of revising the schedule and moving forward.”
Schursky started the Hawks as an expansion team in 2009-10, but they have struggled since. His teams have made the playoffs twice in their existence, 2012-13 and 2015-16, but were eliminated quickly in their first game both times to the Fresno Monsters.
The Hawks’ drama began during the opening weekend of the new season, as the team traveled to Valencia (Calif.) for games Sept. 21 to 23.
“We got to Valencia, who is the top team in the league, and we just kind of knew we would struggle,” Schursky said. “We started our two back up goalies, and they struggled, and we knew it was going to be tough.”
The Hawks lost the three games by a combined score of 40-10 and Schursky said that is when the issues began. “We got back from Valencia and the league called me and said we didn’t have to go to Lake Tahoe (their next scheduled games) and that would give us time off until Oct. 13 to prepare,” Schursky said. “Both (Kouris) and I realized we didn’t have the quality and quantity of talent we needed, so we started working to get more kids in here to assist us and get better.”
White said the league attempted to make player changes, but were unable to complete any changes because of the team history.
“The league made several suggestions, attempted to redistribute players, however it is by player choice as to where they play,” said White. “Most players contacted declined to transfer to the Arizona Hawks given the teams poor record over the past couple of seasons.”
The decision was based upon a full assessment of the roster for the season and the immediate schedule facing them. Kouris and Schursky realized that the team in its present state could not compete in the Junior A Tier II of the WSHL.
The WSHL Las Vegas Storm team announced their withdrawal from the league, which forced a rearranged schedule, and that required an immediate trip to Lake Tahoe for the Hawks.
“This out-of-town weekend (when the schedule was rearranged by the league) did not allow enough time for the staff to acquire enough talented players to play, or condition the existing team to an appropriate level for the games against Lake Tahoe,” Schursky said. “Every year, teams go through training and acclimatizing phase and, unfortunately, we lacked the timing, resources and player commitment to our program to be able to provide a team worthy of being in the WSHL. Couple this with not wanting to see players get injured, management made the very hard decision to go dormant for the season.”
Team learns of decision
Around 3 p.m. Oct. 2, Schursky called the league and told them he was putting his team in dormancy state.
“We are not playing the rest of the season and I have gotten most of my players onto other teams, so they can continue their playing careers,” Schursky said. “One of them is going to Grand Canyon University and a couple more are considering going to school, but I will get them somewhere, if they want to continue playing.”
Dormancy means Schursky continues to hold ownership of the team and area for WSHL hockey and he plans to build the team back “(Kouris) and I are already looking at kids and I plan to bring this team back to the ice,” Schursky said.
He told the players about the schedule cancellation later in the day Oct. 2 and their reaction was they were obviously disappointed.
“They all took it fine when I told them what I was doing,” said Schursky. “My wife called every parent and they understood, but the best thing is that all but one billet family said they would come back next season.”
Even with this season now over, Schursky said he is focused on the future for the Hawks.
“I would love to bring this team back on the ice and, even with the drama this season, I love these kids and they know I would do anything to help them advance their career, whether it is college or professional.”
As he continues to prepare for the future, Schursky said the season’s end is hard to take.
“(Kouris) and I are depressed right now, because we were looking forward to turning this around,” Schursky said. “But I’m not going to lie; it really hurts from the few players who took advantage of me in the past.”
White added that the return of the team remains up to Schursky.
“The WHSL at this time is reserving comment in order to give Schursky the opportunity to put forth a viable plan of operation for the team consistent with other teams in the league who operate very competitive programs,” said White.
The Arizona Hawks’ record over the years was 82 wins, 277 losses, 23 overtime losses and four shutout losses in 386 games.
Schursky said, “This does not mean that the team folded. The Arizona Hawks will be back for the 2018-2019 season and now there is sufficient time to get our resources in order and recruit a full and competitive team that family and fans can support.”
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