Thursday, May 5, 2016

Flint Generals (2008-09, IHL)

2008-09 Regular Season
Opponent Unknown
     The Flint Generals were in their 16th season of operation by 2009. This tied the original Flint Generals of the IHL for the longest stay by a pro hockey team in the Buick City. The modern Generals were now part of the "new" IHL, which the United Hockey League renamed itself the season before. The team was owned by a consortium called The Perani Group (TPG), which included Perani's Hockeyworld owner and Flint legend Bob Perani (hence the name). The team played it's home games at Perani's Hockey World and Event Center.
     The franchise, and the league for that matter, had been in decline for the past several seasons, attendance-wise and in the standings. 2008-09 saw the Gens hit rock bottom both on and off the ice. Head Coach Peter South, an unpopular midseason replacement the previous year, was suddenly expected to "co-coach with former General Bobby Reynolds after a slow start to the year. Seeing the writing on the wall, South stepped aside and Reynolds finished out the year. Problems with unpaid bills, unpaid players and unpaid rent hounded the team throughout the season. Players faced eviction notices from their apartment complex when TPG failed to pay the rent. In February, injured forward Mike Alexiou sued TPG and the Generals, claiming he was owned thousands of dollars due to the franchise not having workman's compensation available.
     Due to a weak lineup and all the drama off the ice, the Generals crashed to a 22-47-7 record. Their 51 points and 22 wins were the worst in franchise history, and only behind the 1985-86 Flint Spirits for ineptitude. The Gens were 14 points behind the fifth-place Bloomington Prairie Thunder, and a whopping 53 behind first-place Fort Wayne. As a result, just 1,613 per game bothered to show up to Perani Arena, easily a franchise low.
     The Generals had the second-worst offense that season, scoring just 241 goals. They were led by Greg Bullock, who had 27 goals and 85 points. Left-winger Steve Rymsha ended up with 32 goals, but was traded to Port Huron at the deadline. John DiPace, who was traded himself to Muskegon, was the other 20+ goal scorer in 2008-09.
     The Generals were rather porous on defense, allowing an IHL-worst 359 goals. It wasn't even close that year--the next worst team, Muskegon, allowed 298. The Gens cycled through eight different goaltenders that year, a high number even for the minors. The main netminder was former MSU Spartan Chad Alban. Alban played in 51 games, going 15-29-6 with a 4.36 GAA and 1 shutout. Of the other seven goaltenders, a noteworthy one was Manon Rheaume. Rheaume played in part of a game that season for charity.
     With a record that bad, the Generals were miles away from the postseason. Fort Wayne won their second-straight Turner Cup, this time over Muskegon. The Perani Group disintegrated during the offseason, and the Gens were propped up by the Franke family for 2009-10.
     As for the program, it's not too bad, better than I expected. It's 47 pages, all on glossy paper and all in black-and-white. There are a few articles about the IHL's history and hockey history in Flint. Each player has their own bio as well. IHL stats for that season are available as well. Unfortunately, there are spelling errors here and there. Also, some of the pictures are pixelated. Not a bad design, but I've seen better with the Generals. Local ads include Firkin & Fox, Scott Stetson Photography and YaYa's Flamebroiled Chicken.
     I remember this season being a joke from the get-go. Unpaid bills, unpaid players, unpaid rent, it was both sad and frustrating. Granted, the economy was in the gutter, and Flint was hit hard by the recession. But, the fact is, the players didn't deserve to go through this mess. It just seemed like TPG tried to put the worst team possible on the ice. The glory years of 1995-2000 were a distant memory. I didn't go to any Generals games that year, opting for Port Huron and Saginaw instead.

Sources:
International Hockey League Statistics: 2008-09 (from hockeydb.com)
Savage, Brendan. "Forward Mike Alexiou to sue Flint Generals". Mlive, 25 February 2009.

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