The United States Hockey League today announced that the USHL Board of Directors has approved the transfer of ownership for the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Blue Ox LLC, led by Ronald J. Friedman, has been acquired from Lou Mervis and Josh Mervis, owners of the team since their inaugural season of 2010-11. Friedman is a partner in the Jericho, New York based law firm of SilvermanAcampora LLP, as well as the managing director of the Long Island Gulls, one of the East Coast's premier youth hockey organizations. He is joined by his brother, Joel Friedman, who is also a co-founder with him in Clearview Capital Management, a New York based investment and advisory group.
The new ownership of the Muskegon Lumberjacks also includes a pair of USHL alumni. Peter Ferraro and Chris Ferraro played two record-setting seasons in the USHL (1990-92) before both went on to be selected in the 1992 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. The two brothers have also partnered with Friedman in the development of the new Ferraro Brothers Ice Center in East Meadow, New York, which will serve as the home of the Gulls organization as well as the Ferraros' expanding camp and training businesses.
“Our group is thrilled at the warm welcome that we have received from the USHL and are proud to be a part of this league,” said Ronald J. Friedman. “We look forward to many years of success at historic L.C. Walker Arena, a premier sports and entertainment facility in West Michigan, as we continue to build a team on and off the ice that the community of Muskegon can be proud to call their own.”
In preparations for their fourth USHL season in 2013-14, the Muskegon Lumberjacks have already made some significant additions to the hockey operations staff during the ownership transition. Todd Krygier has been named head coach of the Jacks. He is a veteran of more than 500 NHL games and has been a coach at the high school and youth level in Michigan since retiring as a player in 2000. Also bringing NHL experience to the staff is new general manager John Vanbiesbrouck who played 19 NHL seasons as a goaltender, plus representing the United States internationally over a number of years as the USA goalie for the IIHF World Championships and a member of the 1998 Olympic team. He was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.
"We're delighted to welcome Ron and Joel Friedman, as well as Peter and Chris Ferraro, into the USHL family," said League President and Commissioner Skip Prince. "Together with their new staff additions in Todd Krygier and John Vanbiesbrouck, they represent an All-Star team of business and hockey professionals who will serve the League, the Lumberjacks, and most importantly the city of Muskegon and its great fans well."
"All of us at the USHL also need to take a moment to thank Lou and Josh Mervis – one of the USHL's first families – for bringing elite junior hockey and the top of the American developmental hockey pyramid to Muskegon. They revitalized hockey in a city that has one of the longest-standing commitments to the game anywhere in the United States, but was on the brink of losing its team. Their efforts on and off the ice have set the stage for a great future for Lumberjacks fans."
The Lumberjacks retain several key staff members on the business side, including team President Tim Taylor, who has been with the organization since its entry into the USHL in 2010. Taylor has long been at the heart of hockey in Muskegon, serving the several minor hockey teams that preceded the arrival of the Lumberjacks.
The Lumberjacks are coming off their most successful season since joining the USHL. They posted a team best 31-23-10 record during the 2012-13 campaign, and earned their second berth in the USHL Clark Cup Playoffs in three years of play. Kevin Lindskoug was named the USHL Goaltender of the Year and defenseman Michael Brodzinski earned spots on both the USHL All-Rookie Team and All-USHL Second Team. Three members of the 2012-13 team were recently selected in the 2013 NHL Draft – Brodzinski, Connor Hurley, and Ben Storm.
Off the ice, the Lumberjacks reached new highs in corporate and community support. Attendance increased nearly 200 fans per game from the previous season, and for the second consecutive year, the organization hosted the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)