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New St. Clair Shores pro hockey team to begin play in November

Fighting Saints to play 56-game slate

By: Jason Carmel Davis | C&G Newspapers | Published May 18, 2016

 Mock ups of St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints jerseys were unveiled during a press conference May 18. The team is the newest member of the Federal Professional Hockey League and will begin play in November.

Mock ups of St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints jerseys were unveiled during a press conference May 18. The team is the newest member of the Federal Professional Hockey League and will begin play in November.

Photo by John McTaggart

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Metro Detroit sports fans will soon have another professional hockey team to call their own.

The St. Clair Shores Fighting Saints will play out of the St. Clair Shores Civic Arena beginning in November as the newest member of the Single-A Federal Professional Hockey League. Team officials unveiled the squad’s logo and mock-ups of their jerseys at a May 18 press conference at the Civic Arena.

“We’d been looking to bring a team to metro Detroit for some time, since we have a team in Port Huron,” Fighting Saints General Manager and associate head coach Brandon Contratto said. “We looked at Fraser and St. Clair Shores, and we thought it just made sense to put a team in St. Clair Shores. We know how much people in the area love hockey, and we want to bring it to them.”

The Fighting Saints will become the eighth team in the FHL. The league, founded in 2009, has teams in Ohio, Illinois, New Hampshire, Connecticut and New York. Port Huron’s team — the Prowlers — won the league championship, the Commissioner’s Cup, this season.

The league started with six teams in its inaugural season in 2010. The FHL thus far peaked with nine squads in the 2011-12 season and saw a low of four teams in the 2013-14 campaign. The most recent season concluded April 22. Four teams advanced to the playoffs after each team played 55-57 regular-season contests. Rosters feature about 25 players.

The league hands out awards at the end of each season, such as Most Valuable Player, Rookie on the Year and Coach of the Year.

The FHL has a solid social media presence, with pages of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The Saints will play a 56-game schedule — 28 home and 28 away games. Home games will be played at 8 p.m. Friday nights and 4:30 p.m. Sunday afternoons. The team will play a weighted schedule, which will see the squad face off against teams closer in proximity more frequently.

The team will have an East Coast swing once a month, Contratto said.

Season tickets are available. The cost for an adult season ticket is $219, and $149 for military personnel, seniors and youths ages 4-16. Children under 4 get free admission. Individual game tickets cost $10 for adults, and $7 for military personnel, seniors and youths and 4-16.

“Naturally, we want to put out the best product possible,” Contratto said, “but we want to make it affordable for families too.”

The Saints will have a roster of about 21 players, according to Contratto. He said the squad will start training camp with about 28 players. Free agent camps will take place in St. Clair Shores July 29-31 and in San Diego in August to fill roster spots. Current FHL players not under contract and other interested players will be invited to the camps. The public is welcome as well, Contratto said.

“Our goal is to have good teams and make sure our players are a part of the community,” Contratto said. “We also want to see them move on to higher-tier leagues. We had about 70 call-ups this season, and we’re looking for that to grow.”

David Debol, the team’s head coach, is no stranger to the area either.

Debol is a St. Clair Shores native who grew up a couple of blocks away from the Civic Arena. A Saline resident, Debol graduated from the University of Michigan and was drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1976 NHL Amateur Draft. His NHL debut came in 1979 for the Hartford Whalers. Debol in 1996 was inducted into the U of M Athletic Hall of Honor.

His post-playing career has seen Debol coach at various levels. He coached Team USA in the World University Games in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

Debol called his latest opportunity a great one.

“It’s so great to be back home,” said Debol, who coached Contratto at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Contratto is now Debol’s son-in-law.

“I’m really excited about this. It’s great to be back and see people I haven’t seen in 30 years. We’re going to work really hard to put a good product on the ice and to make sure our players are good for the community.”

Debol said his team will feature an aggressive, attacking offense. He likes for his squads to put a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Debol is flexible, though, and will change his offensive approach if the need arises.

“But you can’t win without goaltending,” Debol said. “And we want to have good, sound defensemen and a few Bobby Orr types who can move up and down the ice.”

The establishment of the team has brought about some changes to the infrastructure at the Civic Arena.

The city is committing $50,000 to help build four new locker rooms at the Civic Arena — one solely to be used by the FHL team. Global Hockey Management, the company buying the franchise that will play in St. Clair Shores, will donate several pieces of equipment to the Civic Arena’s fitness room in exchange for use of the room during times it is not currently being used by St. Clair Shores hockey players or figure skaters. A portion of the bleachers will be removed to make room for the locker rooms.

The new locker rooms, which will cost about $247,000, are being constructed with money from the St. Clair Shores Hockey Association. The cost will be paid for through credits for ice time issued by the city, and through a portion of beer and wine sales that will be sold through an agreement with the St. Clair Shores Concession Company only during Federal Hockey League events.

“We’re pretty excited about having pro hockey in St. Clair Shores,” Civic Arena Manager Gina Rheaume said.