Minor league hockey is gone from New Jersey. The Trenton Devils, who christened Sovereign Bank Arena in 1999 as the Trenton Titans, announced last week that the team would shut down and leave the capital, taking with it the state’s only minor league professional ice hockey squad.
Joe Babik, director of communications at the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), headquartered at 116 Village Boulevard, issued a brief statement that the organization “is in the process of reviewing potential options for the Trenton membership for the 2011-12 season while simultaneously working on a revised schedule.”
The Mercer County Improvement Authority (MCIA), which owns the Sun National Bank Center arena, has a lease with the Devils through the 2018-2019 season. The MCIA has stated that it will look for another team to skate in Trenton.
The team originally was affiliated with the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL. Financially, the team did well in its first few years and reached its zenith in the 2004-’05 season when it won the Kelly Cup, the ECHL’s championship trophy.
Trouble began two seasons later when the New Jersey Devils bought out the majority interest in the club. Trenton has strong ties to the Philadelphia professional sports market, and the removal of the team’s link to the Flyers turned away fans immediately. Ticket sales dwindled every season the Devils owned the club.