The Putnam Examiner

New Ownership Assumes Pro Hockey Team in Brewster

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For the first time in its history, Putnam County will play host to a professional hockey team, but it won’t be the team originally expected to take the ice.

After a press conference in June welcomed the Stateline Whalers, set to play in the Federal Hockey League, that team and ownership has fallen by the wayside and now a new team with a different ownership group is stepping forward called the Brewster Bulldogs to play inside the Brewster Ice Arena.

The co-owners are Bruce Bennett, who lived in Mahopac for ten years and owned a business in Yorktown, and Edward Crowe, both current Connecticut businessmen. They own both the Brewster team, and also a newfound Danbury team that will play at the Danbury Arena.

Neither have any association with the now-defunct Stateline Whalers. A press conference and media day are set for later this August.

In an interview with one of the co-owners, Bennett, who owns Bruce Bennett Nissan in Connecticut, he said originally the FHL commissioner approached him about owning and operating a team in Danbury, which he was receptive to.

In the meantime, the ownership of the Whalers felt that once a new team was created in Danbury, which is a short distance from Brewster, it couldn’t survive competing against another team in close proximity, according to Bennett’s account.

Once former Whalers owner Barry Soskin backed out, it left a void in the league (the league needs six teams) so Bennett, with prodding from the league, decided to put two teams on the ice.

“I love the Brewster arena,” Bennett said. “It’s smaller than Danbury, but it’s suitable.”

Though the Danbury team and Brewster team will be near each other and possibly competing for fans, Bennett, a proven businessman, said there is “no question in my mind” that two teams, including the Brewster one, can flourish. He said the Brewster Ice Arena is a strong organization that has an immense amount of young hockey players in and out of the facility daily.

“I raised my kids in Mahopac, I know how strong hockey is over there,” Bennett said, noting he only has to sell the size of the arena, which can reach about 1,000 in attendance.

Mike Ciaramella, the team’s marketing director, said with the announcement of the new team so late in the off-season, the Bulldogs have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. His job has been to contact local businesses in hopes of securing sponsorships.

The team is also in search of housing for players, creating a team logo, and taking care of other details pertaining to the Brewster Ice Arena like scheduling.

“Brewster Ice Arena is already a really busy place,” he said. “There are already a lot of people there everyday so it’s a great venue, it’s been there a long time. It’s already a healthy hockey interest in the area so that helps out a lot.”

He also noted that while there are two teams close to each other, “competition drives business” and the hope is the Brewster Bulldogs and Danbury Titans become neighboring state rivals. The first game of the year is actually between the two clubs on Nov. 7 at the Brewster Ice Arena. (A free agent tryouts is Sep. 10,11,12.)

Brewster Ice Arena co-owner Steve Santini said throughout times of speculation over which team would call Brewster its home he always thought a team would be here for next season. With support from the community, FHL, and county, Santini remained confident.

The contract of 4-5 years remains similar to the agreement the arena had with the Whalers, and Santini plans to expand seating and upgrade parts of the facility after the first season concludes.

Santini looks forward to seeing the team thriving, noting Brewster and Danbury will never play home games on the same night. One added bonus to having new ownership in Putnam is the team will bear the name of the village it’ll play in, rather than a non-attributable title like “Stateline.”

“I think it’s more identifiable with our roots here in the community,” Santini said. “I think it’s definitely more recognizable that it’s a Brewster name. We’re happy with that.”


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