Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. (“Black Bear”) has acquired the co-ownership position in the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League owned by Troy and Aafke Loney. The Zoldan family retained their existing co-ownership of the team and the Phantoms will remain in Youngstown. Black Bear, led by CEO and Founder Murry Gunty, is a Maryland-based sports and entertainment company that owns and operates ice arenas, junior hockey franchises and youth sports events. Mr. Gunty is also the majority owner of SuperSeries AAA, a leading organizer or AAA youth hockey tournaments and tournament travel teams in North America.
Black Bear worked closely with Phantoms Fireworks owner, Bruce Zoldan to complete the transaction. Mr. Gunty will serve as Chairman of the Phantoms and has named his SuperSeries partner, NHL veteran and longtime Philadelphia Flyers captain, Keith Primeau, as Vice Chairman. “We are thrilled to be part of the USHL family and to partner with Bruce Zoldan, his family, Bill Weimer and the rest of the Phantoms family” said Mr. Gunty. “The USHL is recognized across the globe as one of the world’s top junior hockey leagues. No league sends more players to college hockey than the USHL and that will continue to be our top priority in Youngstown.”
Co-owner Bruce Zoldan is excited for the newest chapter of the Phantoms. “We look forward to the new partnership with Murry, Keith and the Black Bear team,” said Mr. Zoldan. “Our new partners bring experience and expertise to this organization that we expect will have a positive impact on the team and the community. We have a wonderful partnership with Mayor Brown, City Council, Eric Ryan and the Covelli Center staff in place that we can continue to build upon. On behalf of this entire organization I’d like to thank Troy and Aafke for their leadership and friendship.”
Keith Primeau will oversee all hockey operations as Vice Chairman of the team. “I am excited to join the Phantoms and look forward to building on the team’s successes from last season,” said Mr. Primeau. “Having had two of my boys play in the USHL, I have a strong appreciation for just how competitive the league is and how it prepares players for NCAA and pro hockey. I know how passionate Murry is about the game of hockey and I am excited to be working with the Zoldans and the Phantoms team to improve upon their great season this past year.”
Outgoing owners Troy and Aafke Loney are grateful for their experience in the Youngstown community. "Being co-owners of the Youngstown Phantoms along with Bruce Zoldan gave us the opportunity to give back to a sport that has been an integral part of our lives. It has come full circle. We started in pro hockey, became involved in youth hockey, junior hockey, college hockey, and finally became owners. We were fortunate enough to be a part of bringing the Anderson Cup to Youngstown in 2015, as well as enjoying this year’s Eastern Conference Championship and the Clark Cup Finals. As we move forward to new business opportunities, we will always cherish the relationships we have built here in Youngstown, both personal and business. We fully support the Youngstown Phantoms, Bruce Zoldan, the USHL and are confident Youngstown will welcome the new ownership team just as we were welcomed into this awesome city.”
With the departure of the Loneys, Black Bear Sports Group will work closely with the Zoldans to assume business and hockey operations, and fill key leadership and sales positions previously held by the Loneys. In addition to the Phantoms, Black Bear owns and operates two other junior hockey franchises: the Maryland Black Bears of the North American Hockey League and Team Maryland of the Eastern Hockey League—both based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The partnership with Black Bear Sports Group brings new leadership to the organization as well as a pipeline of players from the NAHL, EHL and Black Bear’s ‘AAA’ youth programs at its network of ice rinks such as the Mercer Chiefs and Team Maryland AAA.
About Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. is a privately held company formed by Murry Gunty in 2015 that seeks investments in sports and entertainment facilities, teams and youth sports events. Our arenas are clean and professionally managed, and offer world-class recreational offerings. We focus on ice arenas in metropolitan areas with compelling demographics, markets with a National Hockey League club presence and arenas with existing youth hockey clubs. We have the ability to acquire healthy and stable arenas, but also to turn around under-managed or under-performing facilities. Black Bear currently owns and operates nine arenas across the United States with a total of 17 sheets of indoor ice, two indoor turf fields, two youth hockey clubs and three junior hockey franchises.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrated its 16th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2017-18. 30 or more players from the USHL have been selected in five consecutive NHL Drafts, and more than 400 players on team rosters last season committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.