Silent Buzz – Rumble Bees Fold After One Season
The logo is still in front of The Rink. Their website still remains active, but their Facebook page has been silent since late March. The gear has been sold. And now, it becomes official without a sound.
Just short of 11 months after they became members of the Federal Prospects Hockey League, the Battle Creek Rumble Bees are no more. There were many variables to the team's existence in the first place, but during a tumultuous season that resulted in just one win in 48 games, there may have been a slight chance to return after the FPHL ended their season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent story released on ESPN's website had several details that followed the season after a 1-45-2 inaugural season. General Manager/ Head Coach Adam Stio told ESPN he hadn’t heard a peep from team owners about the status of the team, but was surprised to receive a call recently from an official from another team asking for names of players on the Battle Creek roster worth selecting in the dispersal draft. That meant that the team was folding.
Hockey in some shape was a plan in Battle Creek in 2019. An upstart league of Michigan teams - the Interstate Hockey League - was in the works during the spring with plans to play at The Rink of Battle Creek. Initial plans were promising for the impending Battle Creek Calvary, but lack of funding from major contributors (in relation, the Alliance of American Football had the same issue) caused a quick cease of operations. The FPHL was able to make their way instead, needing a tenth team to fill their league in their tenth season of existence. Another expansion team, the Delaware Thunder, were pretty successful in year one. The Rumble Bees were owned by the ownership of the Danville (IL) Dashers.
The Rumble Bees took to the ice in their home opener October 25th, eight weeks after the team was formed. It was a 7-1 loss to Danville, but it was in front of what would be their largest crowd of the season at 672 (The Rink seats 1700). The crowds for the remaining 19 home games were not as large, peaking at 652 on February 21st. Their average was 372, ranked last and just 22% capacity. Delaware average 499 on the season, but the Delaware Fairgrounds Center Ice Arena seats just 700, filling the facility to 71% capacity.
There was also a shift quickly in the season, as head coach Clint Hagaman and the franchise parted ways eight games in. Stio would take over behind the bench for the remainder of the season.
The first win would have come at home against the Elmira (NY) Enforcers December 20th. A 5-1 lead was destroyed by a five-goal rally to pull the Enforcers ahead for the win 6-5. The Bees would get their revenge on January 3rd in a 2-1 win in Elmira - the lone win in the franchise. The win was epic, ending a 24-game slide and doing it on a promoted "Guaranteed Win Night" at First Arena.
Several home games started to be moved to road games in January due to logistics and scheduling. In most independent leagues, this can be a tell-tale sign of struggles financially. Bus League cited other examples in a story in mid-January. The Bees also made several trades throughout the season.
After the season was canceled in mid-March, all was quiet from the hockey landscape in the league. Out of the blue, a website that follows the independent hockey season, Bus League Hockey, made the announcement of a move to Berlin, New Hampshire, was in the works on April 1st. We reached out to Stio after the announcement to see if it was true and to get more details. Both Bus League and Stio stated that it was an April Fool's Day joke. Stio's return email also added some caution -
The team is in limbo.
Wednesday’s article by ESPN’s Chris Peters also had conversations with Stio, former Bees player and top scorer Ryan Alves (taken by the Columbus [GA] River Dragons in Monday's dispersal draft) and a fan that fully supported the Bees, even providing food for the players during the season. Stio worked tirelessly to keep the team for the upcoming season, but silence from ownership and the dreaded call to ask about current players in a dispersal draft led to the end.
Peters looked at some of the lowlights of the Rumble Bees only season, making a case for being the worst team in professional hockey history.
• One win in 48 tries, good for a .021 win percentage.
• Last in attendance with an average of 353 fans per game over 20 home dates.
• Outscored 304-94
• Broken-down buses, with players driving their cars to games.
• Practicing in soggy equipment.
• Getting chased off the ice for the home arena's popular public Sunday skates.
• 53 different skaters and seven different goalies