Omaha Lancers fined $20,000 by the USHL over travel policy, league has offered to revisit rule
Breaking a protocol set in place by the USHL, the Lancers received a $20,000 fine by the league for flying home from the Fall Classic instead of taking a bus back to Omaha as required.
OMAHA, Neb. — The Omaha Lancers have been fined $20,000 by the USHL for flying back from the Fall Classic in September instead of taking a bus back as outlined by the league.
In a statement released by the Lancers, they said the bus company they had booked months in advance told them they would be unable to provide a relay driver or a sleep-in bus for the drive back from Pittsburgh to Omaha, resulting in the Lancers facing a 28-hour trip home. Lancers owner Michael Picozzi reached out to USHL commissioner Bill Robertson asking for an exception to a rule that punishes teams for traveling by plane and the request was denied. Picozzi asked for the exception in order to prevent players from additional stress and missing extra school days.
"At the Omaha Lancers, the mental and physical health of our players is paramount. No nonsensical rule or politics can alter our decision-making process when it comes to the well-being of our players," Picozzi said in the statement. "The USHL is the best development league in North America. While we disagree with the league's position, we accept it and are ready to move on. However, hopefully the USHL will revisit this rule, which, in my opinion is harming players."
The Rink Live has obtained information from the USHL, and the league says that the USHL is proud of its record on the health, safety and care of its players. The league says it has a track record of putting player health and safety first and have multiple initiatives to promote player health and safety such as for mental health and concussions. The USHL also said it has canceled games due to inclement weather and have always been a leader in the area of player safety.
As far as the league's stance on fining the Lancers, Omaha said it informed the USHL days before traveling to Pittsburgh for the Sept. 24-25 games that the team didn't have relay travel and that the league provided numerous alternatives for return travel and also offered to pick up the associated costs for the return trip.
The rule prohibiting air travel has been longstanding and is in place to prevent competitive advantages. The USHL went on to say each team is faced with different financial situations, and all 15 other teams who participated in the Fall Classic abided by the rule without incident, and there were teams who had to drive farther than Omaha.
The USHL has offered to revisit this rule at their next board meeting this winter.