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After a lawsuit and a no-show game, Vermilion County’s professional hockey team ceases operations

The Vermilion County Bobcats play a game in 2022 at the David S. Palmer Arena in Danville.

DANVILLE – The Vermilion County Bobcats made national headlines after failing to show at a game against the Quad City Storm on Feb. 5. 

Just days later, the Bobcats released a statement on Twitter announcing the team was ceasing operations effective immediately. The team did not respond to requests for comment.

Jamie Gooch, who was born and raised in Vermilion County, said she had been going to local hockey games in Danville with her family for around 10 years. 

When the Danville Dashers were voted out and the Vermilion County Bobcats moved into town in 2021, Gooch said turnout dropped dramatically.

“Wherever you were sitting you could throw a stone and not hit anybody,” Gooch said.

“It is a sad day for hockey fans in Danville, but I want to personally thank them for their loyalty to the Bobcats over the past two seasons,” wrote Bobcats owner Ellen Tully in the Bobcats’ Twitter statement. 

Tully is the daughter of the late Lou Mervis who founded Mervis Industries, a company in Danville that recycles materials. Mervis Industries released a statement on Facebook denying any involvement with the team or its ownership. 

In the fall of 2022, the Bobcats filed a lawsuit against David S. Palmer Arena’s Operator, Vermilion County Metropolitan Exposition Auditorium and Office Building Authority, according to the Commercial-News

“The Arena Board is hopeful this will finally resolve the pending litigation in Vermilion County, where thousands of dollars have been spent in the defense of the Arena,” David S. Palmer Area representatives wrote in a statement on Friday. “The choice to continue the contested litigation lies solely in the hands of Ellen Tully, as the owner of the Vermilion County Bobcats.” 

In the statement, arena representatives said they are trying to find another hockey team to partner with as soon as possible.

Lee Marian, a Southern Professional Hockey League fan, hosts a podcast about the Federal Prospect Hockey League. On his Feb. 8 show, Marian interviewed player Dante Juris about his experience with the team.  

Juris told him players were often not paid on time and had gone through around 10 coaches in two seasons. 

“That’s not easy for a player to get used to the system and then you have to learn another system,” Marian said. “I can’t even imagine what the players have had to go through.” 

Now, the players will have to move to another city and start over with a different team, Marian said. Although he believes the league itself will survive, he said it’s difficult to watch a team leave in the midst of a season.  

“That league has come very far since it started and to see this happen at this point — it’s really sad.” 

It’s disappointing to see the loss of support for hockey in Danville, Gooch said, who treasured the opportunity to take her children to games every season. 

“Hockey is like the only thing that we had going in this town to do with like a family.” 

Farrah Anderson is a journalist and student at the University of Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @farrahsoa.

Farrah Anderson

Farrah Anderson

Farrah Anderson is a student at the University of Illinois studying journalism. At Illinois Public Media, Anderson works as a general assignment reporter and produces and hosts the 217 Today podcast.

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