The news that the holding company for Manchester Phoenix has gone into liquidation is no surprise to those who have followed the club’s progression over recent seasons.
But to be fair it’s no shock either for ice hockey in this country.
Business owners in our sport have long utilised this practice before relaunching their clubs from the ashes.
Historically, Hull Stingrays and Sheffield Steelers are both teams that have reappeared after their owners have called time.
But Phoenix is an interesting case – as is the latest statement from owner Neil Morris.
It’s clear that operating conditions for the club were difficult last season.
Turfed out of their rink back in April 2015 because of a dispute with Silver Blades, Phoenix were forced to play out of Deeside for the season.
Crowds stabilised throughout the course of the year, but they probably didn’t match the ambitions of the owners, head coach and the fans themselves.
Phoenix have been synonymous with success over recent years – and have been backed by a strong faithful.
So strong that they are undivided in their loyalty and they don’t take too kindly to their club being the focal point of rumour and supposition.
They defend Morris to the hilt and who can blame them as without his input there would be no Phoenix at all.
The rebirth of Manchester Storm, ironically playing out of Altrincham, muddied the waters further. This was a new Storm, but they played on their heritage all season and that upset some sections of the Phoenix fanbase.
And let’s remember, those fans were Stormies years ago.
Storm didn’t get involved in any of the mud slinging between the two clubs, even under some provocation, whilst it could be argued that those aligned to the Phoenix, in the early days at least, fanned the flames of this discontent.
The issue appears to be simple – can Manchester support two hockey teams?
On one side, Storm have the upper hand. They have the name, the rink and the Elite League.
But on the other, Phoenix have the heritage, as well as the greatest player this country has ever produced.
They also have an owner who has put his heart, soul and a great deal of finance into the club.
Loyalty in sport is a big thing – Hand and Morris are loyal as is the Phoenix faithful.
Over the last few months they’ve been asked to pay for bricks in the new facility, which is set to be built in the ‘heart of the city’.
They’ve done that in their droves, again backing their club.
But the news that Freezing Point Ltd has ceased trading has caused some murmurs in even this fanatical fanbase and until Morris can reveal where the new rink will be, that will continue to be an issue.
Sportcity seems a favoured spot – and that is far enough away from Altrincham to give hockey fans a choice of where to watch their matches. Storm or Phoenix.
Until that venue is built – or we see some signs of construction – we’re in a state of limbo.
Morris knows that. His latest statement reveals he wants to get the details out there as quick as possible.
But time is ticking – the new EPL season is just four months away.
Storm hold all the aces, but Phoenix also have a winning Hand as coach and ambassador.
It’s time for Manchester Phoenix to show their hand because their fans, and the sport, deserve it.
(Image permission: Richard Amor Allan)