Two brothers from the Detroit area have big plans for a West Michigan hockey team.
Bruce and Dan Israel purchased the Muskegon Lumberjacks in a cash deal, announced by the team on Monday. The Lumberjacks are in the United States Hockey League, a Tier I junior hockey league.
The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, but Dan Israel said the team is “hopefully worth more than I paid for it.”
The brothers own Asphalt Specialists Inc. in Pontiac along with a few aggregate hauling companies, and when presented with the opportunity to take over the team, they couldn’t pass it up.
“It’s a hobby first,” Dan Israel said. “Then it’s also a good investment. For me, I believe those are the same. Investment and business should be fun.”
The brothers purchased the team from a group, including Chris Ferraro, Peter Ferraro, Ron Friedman and Joel Friedman. Dan Israel said he did the negotiating with Joel Friedman, who is out of New York City and the founder of Clearview Capital Management.
The previous group took over the Lumberjacks in 2013.
Plans for the team are to stay in Muskegon and increase the marketing efforts, Israel said, noting the previous ownership group seemed to be fairly “hands off.”
One of the first moves of the new ownership was to negotiate a new lease at the L.C. Walker Arena in downtown Muskegon. The new deal is for three years, with a two-year option should the franchise hit certain attendance marks.
“The path the team was on the last five years is not the path I want to continue on,” Israel said. “Muskegon is a really good market and I think it’s a hockey town. There’s a lot of appeal.”
He said Muskegon has yet to fully realize the legitimacy of USHL hockey. Last year, the Lumberjacks won the Eastern Conference championship and produced three National Hockey League draft picks.
The league as a whole had 37 draft picks, more than any other league in the world. Additionally, every Lumberjack player received a Division I scholarship.
“We have a great brand of hockey, but we want the experience to be more than hockey,” Dan Israel said. “Muskegon is a town on the rebound and it’s a cool place to be.”