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The International Independent Hockey League (IIHL) was an independent low-level professional hockey league that played in the Great Lakes Region of the US in late 2003 before falling apart in 2004. Several players used the IIHL as a launching pad to higher pro leagues.
The IIHL ceased operations in late January 2004 after financial problems and low attendance numbers.
The Northern Michigan Predators began play with the IIHL's smallest arena when a zoning issue with Harbor Springs, Michigan officials resulted in only 300 seats being allowed at Polar Bear Arena. Owner Tom Considine pulled the plug on the Predators after the IIHL office shut down the league. Considine pressed charges against the General Manager of his team, who was subsequently sent to prison.
Mark Williams, former successful operator of the ECHL's Huntington Blizzard, never began play with his team in Huntington, West Virginia due to the league owner disappearing.
The IIHL had an affiliation agreement with the now defunct South East Hockey League (SEHL). The four-team SEHL ceased play following the 2003-04 season with portions of the league joining the Asheville, North Carolina-based Southern Professional Hockey League. Mark Williams quit as General Manager of the Winston-Salem franchise in the SEHL to begin his IIHL operation in Huntington with the Tri-State Hurricanes.
The first IIHL game was played in December 2003 at Polar Bear Arena in Harbor Springs, Michigan. It featured the Northern Michigan Predators and Lansing Ice Nuts. The Ice Nuts won, 3-2. Former NHL star Craig Coxe was the coach of the Predators and he stayed on to manage the rink in Harbor Springs after the IIHL fell apart.
Another former NHL star, Darren Banks, was GM and Head Coach of the Motor City Snipers who obtained a lease at the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum The Team was also owned by Kilbreath. The team folded after only a few games due to bounced checks and unpaid paid bills. It was reported that Banks went to Kilbreath's house and demanded his money along with the leagues on ice officials who also had not been paid.
The Soo City Mavericks played out of the historic Pullar Center in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Shane W. Kelley was GM and Head Coach, in addition to owning the team. Jason Rapcewicz was his Associate Coach.
The Ohio Valley Ice Cats played out of Bird Arena in Athens, Ohio on the campus of Ohio University, and the original GM/Head Coach resigned after fewer than a dozen players showed up for training camp and the original ownership group from Florida never paid franchise fees or league fees. The league named a college student to help operate the Ice Cats with the team captain while trying to find a new ownership group that never materialized. After a game on New Year's Eve in Lansing the players had to rent a UHAUL box truck to get home because Kilbreath who acting as team owner while trying to find local ownership failed to pay the bus copmpany so the company left the players in Lansing forcing the players to find their own way home.
The Lansing Ice Nuts also played on a college campus, using a no alcohol approach at Michigan State University's Munn Ice Arena. They never drew more than 350 fans to a game because of the no alcohol policy, but the ban on drinking by players resulting in producing the IIHL's best club. GM/Head Coach Chris Blaisius resigned after a New Year's Eve game after his and the players payroll checks bounced and Kilbreath failed to pay bills with the rink and team hotel. The Ice Nuts were 11-0 when Blaisuis resigned.
By the end of January, nearly every player on the Lansing Ice Nuts roster had moved on to play in Europe or a higher-level pro league with the help of Blaisuis and Assistant Coach Rosty Saglo.
- Motor City Snipers
- Lansing Ice Nuts
- Northern Michigan Predators
- Soo City Mavericks
- Ohio Valley Ice Cats
- Tri-State Hurricanes
- Great Lakes Young Americans
- Motor City All Americans
- Southern Michigan Super Wolves
- Huntington, West Virginia
- North Country Barnstormers
- Ontario Junior Stars