Mississippi Riverkings suspend operations for 2018-19 season

DESOTO COUNTY, MS (WMC) - There will be no Mississippi Riverkings hockey in 2018-19.

Southern Professional Hockey League announced Thursday that the Riverkings have suspended play for the 2018-19 season.

"This has been a very difficult decision for Robin Hurdle," said SPHL President Jim Combs. "In addition to their tremendous charitable contributions to Southaven and the surrounding communities, the RiverKings have been an outstanding league partner for the past seven seasons. On behalf of the league and its Board of Governors, I would like to thank Robin for her efforts. The league is actively seeking new ownership in order to bring the team back for the 2019-2020 season."

The SPHL will continue on with 10 teams this October.

The Riverkings, who have played in the Mid-South for 26-consecutive seasons, are the longest continuously running professional sports franchise in the Mid-South.

"I thought it was sad. That's the first thing I've heard about it," Riverkings fan Connie Speck said.

"I really went for the action, so I'm going to miss the action a lot," fellow Riverkings fan James Taylor said.

The Maddox Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Hernando, bought the team in 2002.

The interim general manager of the team, Bradley Field, agreed to an on-camera interview, but would not reveal a specific reason as to why team owners are shutting down operations. But he did say it's not ticket sales.

"Not so much about the fan support, we have a good fanbase, this is a great sports market. Obviously, we have some room to grow," Field said.

But the numbers aren't good.

The Mississippi Riverkings had the second lowest attendance last year in the Southern Professional Hockey League, averaging 2,325 fans a game, according to the website HockeyDB.com. Average attendance has dropped by 600 fans over the last six years.

"To our fans out there, it's heartbreaking. We're heartbroken as well but we're also hopeful for the future," Field said.

The future will have to include a new owner. The team said it's tried selling the team but have not been successful so far.

Todd Mastry, executive director of the Landers Center, said they will be affected financially with the loss of Riverkings home games, and they hope the team is sold to an owner who keeps the team in Southaven.

Team President Robin Hurdle said the team hopes to be back on the ice at Landers Center for the 2019-20 season as they seek new ownership. Click here to read Hurdle's letter to the fans.

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