USPHL shuts down Wooster Oilers franchise, riling up owner
Marty Kerr, a co-owner of the Wooster franchise, released at least two video statements disputing the league's announcement.
WOOSTER, Ohio — The team's website on Saturday was down, "due to some technical difficulties." The league it played in simply said, you're out.
The Wooster Oilers, which had been a member of the 70-plus-team U.S. Premier Hockey League Premier Division, got the boot on Friday, Oct. 14, in a 53-word news release issued as a graphic on the league's website and social media channels.
Marty Kerr, who is listed as a co-owner of the Wooster franchise, released at least two video statements disputing the league's announcement.
Kerr said the team started the season with a short bench and some staffing changes. Injuries also depleted the Oilers, the co-owner said.
So following a 10-1 loss to the Toledo Cherokee where the Oilers dressed 13 skaters along with three goaltenders, the Oct. 7 matchup against Toledo unraveled quickly.
Wooster's 11-0 loss to the Cherokee included a combined 124 minutes of penalties — including seven 10-minute misconduct calls. Wooster, which dressed only 10 skaters and three goaltenders, had 64 minutes of penalties in that game.
"The game got a little out of hand," Kerr said in a video posted Oct. 12.
Kerr said the team decided to cancel the next day's game. The league called it a forfeit. On Friday, the USPHL and its commissioner Bob Turow announced Wooster was no longer part of the USPHL.
The statement said: "Effective immediately, the Wooster Oilers' involvement with the USPHL has ended based on an infraction under the League's playing requirements." The league said the decision was unrelated to past "operational difficulties" the franchise experienced during the previous three years.
"I was told that the Wooster Oilers were going to be forced to fold due to the forfeit," Kerr said in the Oct. 12 video. "This is a unilateral decision that was made by the USPHL executive committee and our commissioner. I was given no opportunity to explain what happened or defend the team or the boys in any way."
The team began in 2006 as an expansion franchise in the America East Hockey League then joined various leagues — including the Minnesota Junior Hockey League for three seasons — before becoming a USPHL Premier Division team in 2018. The Oilers did not play the 2019-20 season, reportedly over concerns regarding its home rink in Wooster.
Kerr, according to his LinkedIn profile, became co-owner in May 2020.
According to The Daily Record, a fundraising committee collected three-fourths of the just over $200,000 pledged to pull the Oilers' home, the 900-seat Alice Noble Ice Arena, out of financial despair. With additional funding going towards ice-making equipment and repairs, the arena avoided heavy consideration to become an artificial turf facility in 2020.
Kerr said the Oilers players asked him to keep fighting for the franchise.
On Friday morning, after learning of the league's decision to force Wooster to fold, Kerr said in a video, "I'm just gonna say it because there's nothing worse than a guy with nothing to lose. That's the USPHL punishing players because they chose to try to stand up. That's what it is. End of the day."
Kerr said Oilers players are currently looking for other teams to play for.