Opinion: The FHL finals are now officially a joke

If stiffing an ice rink company, city taxpayers in Williamsport and several local vendors wasn’t enough now Don Kirnan’s latest circus act occurs on the eve of the Federal Hockey League finals and includes a former Outlaws player.

Let’s begin with the history of said player first. Matt Puntureri was signed by the Augusta Riverhawks of the SPHL (yes, that Augusta team mentioned in a previous story) in October 2012 and waived on November 26, 2012. Which is ironic since the Williamsport Outlaws on October 24, 2012 placed him on “team suspension for DNR games”.

According to the Federal Hockey League transaction wire ADD Puntureri, Matthew (F) signed contract on December 14, 2012.

He was actually picked up (literally) by the Outlaws in Ohio on the road trip to Dayton and played several games before the team folded on January 20, 2013.

Two days later on January 22, 2013 the Federal Hockey League conducted a dispersal draft of Outlaws players and in Round 3 Puntureri was selected by the Danbury Whalers.

Two days after that on January 24, 2013 Kirnan and company issued the following statement as first reported by ESPNWilliamsport:

“The Federal Hockey League has officially announced they have taken over the management of the Williamsport Outlaws hockey team. This relates only to the on ice aspect of the team. This action by the Federal Hockey League Board of Governors is a result of the decision by the Williamsport Outlaws ownership refusing to play their remaining 12 road games.

The FHL has restructured the schedule for the remaining 5 teams and have filled all game slots. No games for any FHL team have been lost or rescheduled, only some opponents have changed. Of the 12 remaining Outlaws road games only 4 will be played. The Outlaws had completed their home season of 30 games with 3 of those games lost due to inclement weather.

Due to the Outlaws not having home ice and not being in good standing with Federal Hockey League By-laws, regardless of their statistical finish, they will not participate in the post season playoffs. In an effort to give the Outlaws players a chance to complete their season, they have been given the options of reporting to their claiming team in a dispersal draft, continue playing for the Outlaws, or granted free-agent status. The announcement of the Outlaws roster will be announced in the upcoming days as well as the Head Coach. Individual teams will be announcing additions to their rosters as players are signed.”

How do you do only take over the “on ice aspect” of the team?

Funny how being the Commissioner of the league the team plays in and the head of the non-profit that operates the rink the Outlaws play on never becomes a conflict of interest.

Here is where the story goes off the train tracks for any reasonable person to even begin to comprehend. After telling players they have been dispersed to another team (normally that means you instantly sign with them) less than 48 hours pass and the Commissioner of the FHL reverses himself twice, which is no easy task I might add and says players can continue to play for a team that won’t “regardless of their statistical finish, they will not participate in the post season playoffs.” On top of that he adds, they can be “granted free-agent status”.

Danbury was in such a rush to sign him that Matt Puntureri was actually picked up by the Bloomington Blaze (Bloomington, IL) of the Central Hockey League. His first game in a Blaze uniform was (pay attention to the date) Friday, January 18, 2013 and he scored one of his three CHL goals in 23 games for the Blaze in his debut. Outlaws players put out on Twitter after the home game the next night that the season for Williamsport was most likely over.

So how can a player on a CHL roster at the time of the Outlaws dispersal draft also be on the Outlaws roster four days after he played his first game in Illinois?

On January 30, 2013 Puntureri, Matthew (F) is waived by the Outlaws, so how can he be claimed if he hasn’t been waived, let alone playing in another league?

It gets better, Puntureri played three games including the day of the dispersal draft with the Blaze. He was recently waived by the Blaze on March 12, 2013.

So now, the Whalers have signed Puntureri and the FHL has apparently reversed themselves and their “by-laws” again.

Dayton Demonz head coach and recently awarded Federal Hockey League co-coach of the year Marc LeFebvre weighed in on twitter on Wednesday evening “@Favor11inc:…lets make up the rules as we go eh boys?”

Sounds about right to this author.

According to a Facebook exchange in the past 48 hours Phil DeFranco, FHL Director of Hockey Operations on the Federal Hockey League Facebook fan page states the following:

” If a player has played 5 games during the regular season he is eligible for the Post Season. If said player is on a call up to AA or higher, or is on an IR he is able to be put on the playoff roster if his IR runs out during the playoffs or if he is returned from a call up. At no time can a team have more than 19 players on the active roster. If a player comes off the IR or is returned and the team has 19 players active, they must drop 1 player for each player returning. If a player is dropped he can not be reactivated during the playoffs.”

Note, the player only has to play 5 games in the “league” not for the “team”.

If I was Dayton owner Barry Soskin I would be none to pleased.

When asked by fans where the rule is on the FHL website, DeFranco replied:

“It is in the Op Rules which is not on the site,” then he added “The Op Rules are private documents for owners and staff only. The game ops manual does not cover eligibility rules, merely how a game should be run.”

Is he serious?

This means on the day of a finals game Dayton or Danbury can add anyone who has played 5 games in the FHL this season to there roster.

DeFranco just updated the FHL Facebook page with the following:

“The Wednesday before the playoffs begin, all teams must submit their 19 man active roster. Any players on the IR or on a call up to the ECHL or CHL that have played 5 games in the FHL, are eligible to return when released from call up or their time on the IR is up. Puntureri was on a call up when he was taken in the draft and had fulfilled the 5 game requirement while with the Outlaws. Hopefully this solves your dilemna.”

My question is, how can he be on the active playoff roster on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 if he hasn’t signed a contract yet?

And now, the transaction wire reflects, Danbury 03/14/13 ADD Dolence, Ryan (D) activated from IR, Danbury 03/15/13 Dolence, Ryan (D) placed on 5 day IR, Danbury 03/15/13 ADD Puntureri, Matthew (F) signed contract.

Do I really need to say more?

I will anyway. I claim Sydney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins to play for my fantasy hockey team but I won’t sign him until I am in the fantasy finals of my league. That is no different than what is going on in the Federal Hockey League. A real nightmare for anyone involved. By the way, the fantasy hockey league commissioner would never allow Crosby on my fantasy finals roster due to existing league rules since he hadn’t played any games on my team in the league. But who cares about rules right?

Wait five minutes Kirnan may change his mind again.

Talk about an asterisk, what a joke!

Editor’s note: Todd Bartley is an award-winning broadcaster and has served as the play-by-play voice of the Lycoming College Warriors and Williamsport Crosscutters for the past six years. He also has an extensive background in gameday operations, management, sales and marketing.

The opinions expressed within are not necessarily those of the staff, management and ownership of ESPN Williamsport.