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Published: Thursday, 12/7/2006

125-point loss the least of Ice woes

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The Toledo Ice played the Detroit Panthers on the day after Thanksgiving - a day known as Black Friday because merchants host a horde of Christmas shoppers that change red ink to black.

The Ice faced a horde of points.

The 191-66 drubbing at the hands of the Panthers is the only game the local American Basketball Association team has played during the 2006-07 season. It's possible the 125-point loss will stand as the only game the troubled franchise will play because the league recently suspended Ice owner and Toledo native Chris Dotson of his duties.

"We've suspended Chris Dotson for failing to meet any of the conditions of the ABA," said league co-founder and chairman Joe Newman, citing Dotson's failure to have a site secured for home games.

Attempts to contact Dotson, owner of SoulRiver Records Corp., a music/record company based in Minnesota, by telephone were unsuccessful.

The Ice's brief history has been marred with controversy. Poor fan support for home games and the Ice ownership's failure to pay players and staff summed up the inaugural season last winter.

Dotson, who was not part of the original ownership group, became sole owner before the start of this season. He promised things would be different. He brought in former Bowsher and Ohio State basketball standout Dennis Hopson to serve as coach and aligned himself with former Scott coach and community leader Ben Williams and former Maumee coach Jim Robinson to work at his side.

However, Hopson, who was a member of the Chicago Bulls' 1991 NBA championship team, bailed from his coaching duties weeks before the Ice's scheduled season opener, saying "it wasn't professional."

The Ice failed to play its first two games of the season on Nov. 12 in Hammond, Ind., and in St. Paul, Minn., on Nov. 13 after a "scheduling mix-up."

Dotson, along with a short-handed roster of six players, and Robinson, who served as the coach, traveled to Detroit for the only game the Ice has played.

Newman said he's been in contact with Williams and Hopson about possibly salvaging the remainder of the season.

Williams said he's met with city officials and confirmation of a team continuing to represent Toledo in the ABA this season could take place by the end of the week. Dotson will not be associated with the team and Williams said the team will no longer be called the Ice. Instead, the team will be renamed as the Toledo Rens, which is a way of paying tribute to the 1920's Harlem Rens, an all-black basketball team that ultimately led to the creation of the world-famous Harlem Globetrotters.

"We feel we can eradicate all the negative things that have happened," Williams said. "We expect to put a high quality team on the court. We have higher standards."

Williams said he's met with city officials about a plan to have a team in place to play 13 home games and eight away games starting on Jan. 13.

"I have good feelings that things are going to work out," Williams said."We feel this is a good opportunity for Toledo."

Hopson, who lives in Columbus, isn't sure about the Ice playing another game in the ABA this season.

"I don't think that's going to be possible this year," Hopson said. "If you're going to do it you want to do it right.

"Ben [Williams] is trying to make it happen and I'm behind him 100 percent. I would like to coach them and my role would be strictly to coach the team."

To resume with the Ice's schedule, besides Williams and Hopson finding new ownership, Hopson would be faced with finding players. It would also require finding a facility for home games.

The Ice played part of its schedule at the SeaGate Centre and part of it at Owens Community College last season. Representatives for both facilities said the Ice never had contracts signed to play in either facility this season.

Hopson said he's not totally convinced a team affiliated with a semi-pro league could succeed in the Glass City. He said he's observed over the years a number of failed attempts to establish semi-pro teams in the Columbus area. He believes it may require more time to study whether Toledo is the kind of sports market that could support an ABA franchise.

"When you're talking about OSU football and basketball in Columbus it's a different level. Trust me, they're going to support the Buckeyes over a semi-pro team," Hopson said. "Toledo is a different type of market. I think you have to cater to a lot of different people beyond the Toledo area. You can't limit your fan base and you have to reach out to the outlying areas."

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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