Is there a chance RMU hockey could come back?

Youngstown Phantoms owner and CEO of Black Bear, Murry Gunty could help save RMU hockey.

Youngstown Phantoms owner and CEO of Black Bear, Murry Gunty could help save RMU hockey.

By Owen Krepps, Contributor

It has been over a week since Robert Morris University cut both the men’s and women’s hockey teams out of the blue. With 55 athletes rushing to the transfer portal to find new homes, many have felt let down and mistreated.

On Tuesday evening, RMU president Dr. Chris Howard met with both the media as well as the student-athletes to answer questions. Both meetings were rushed and many questions were left unanswered. Howard and the University went the anticipated route of crafted PR responses to try and explain his decision.

Financial problems were the entire explanation for cutting the programs. One thing was clear though- these teams are not coming back unless a miracle happens.

“We don’t have any specific plans to bring the programs back. You have seen the numbers, and they are not insignificant and that is sitting out there,” Howard said. “However, we do not have any plans to bring the programs back.”

Could that miracle happen? In the days following the decision by RMU, the public outcry over the decision has been massive. National Hockey League players, Olympians, members of Barstool Sports, and thousands of fans have signed the petition and donated to GoFundMe to try and get this program reinstated.

These fans and supporters can only do so much. As of June 3rd, nearly $32,000 has been raised as well as around half a million in private pledges, but this is a tad bit off the $2 million goal. To get these teams reinstated, they will need some support from some big guns.

Thankfully, some ammunition for this movement has shown up to the party.

Murry Gunty, the CEO of Black Bear Sports Group, has expressed his interest in buying the RMU Island Sports Center potentially allowing for both teams to return to play. Black Bear is the largest owner and operator of ice rinks in the United States with 27 rinks and over 50 sheets of ice. Most famously, Black Bear owns the Youngstown Phantoms, an ECHL junior hockey team in Ohio.

In a two-page open letter to Dr. Chris Howard via Twitter, Gunty requests that Howard and the University sell him the Island Sports Center. He mentioned a date of July 31st if everything could go by in a “timely manner.”

As reported by Tim Benz of TribLive, Gunty and his team received a non-disclosure agreement Tuesday evening to start the process. But other than that no other communication has been in place between the school and Black Bear.

The open letter to Howard CC’d another important name, that being David Morehouse, the president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins. It had been rumored for years that the Penguins and Robert Morris were looking at a new arena to add to the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry that would let both D1 teams complete there.

Morehouse told Tim Benz of TribLive that the Penguins were blindsided by Robert Morris’ decision as well.

“We are very disappointed that the only Division 1 program in Pittsburgh has eliminated men’s and women’s hockey. We are especially concerned about the student-athletes that are impacted and where they can go from here. We’ve always had a great relationship with RMU. We’ve hosted the Frozen Four twice in the last 10 years. We’ve worked extensively with them on the feasibility of elevating their program. We think it is important to have Division I hockey in Pittsburgh. We were surprised when they eliminated Division I hockey.” said Morehouse to TribLive.

Perhaps the biggest question is if the athletes themselves are even willing to come back after how the University mistreated them. Several have already entered the transfer portal and many others will be against coming back to play. Hopefully, this will be a tough decision in the future for these athletes.

After a brief appearance for the media, Chris Howard has, once again, gone silent. While there is a fleeting amount of hope, it is hard to pinpoint if Howard will decide promptly as proposed.