Dictionary.com uses words like "interruption" and "setback" to help define the word hiccup. It also uses phrases like "a minor difficulty" or "the condition of having such spasms".
Nowhere does it include unpaid bills, false promises, possible tax dollars, an organization imploding and, this might come as a surprise to those of you not familiar with the dynamics of being outside in the winter, weather. And it most certainly doesn't include anything about a bus fire.
Although it would be difficult to locate any of those words or phrases tucked within the definition of hiccup, it was nonetheless the way the Federal Hockey League described its failure in Williamsport.
"As we enter a New Year we would like to thank all of you for hanging in there during our most recent hiccup in Williamsport," a section of an emailed press release from Phil DeFranco representing the FHL stated.
"Most recent" might be the only aspect of that statement with any type of self-realization in it.
The FHL's initial attempt in 2010 toward becoming a respected outlet for hockey players saw the Broome County Barons relocating to Cape Cod and the Rome Frenzy ceasing operations midway through the season.
The next year was greeted with a much more optimistic case of the hiccups the type when simply holding one's breath is enough to alleviate the constant annoyance. The league's second season of 2011-12 also marked the first with the Outlaws as members in Wayne, NJ.
One year later, after winning the Commissioner's Cup, the FHL's version of the Stanley Cup, the Outlaws were relocated to Williamsport where they became the first professional North American hockey franchise to play an entire season outside.
And remember that franchise from Broome County that relocated to Cape Cod? They moved to Maine, broke up and then returned to New York all in the same season.
"There are a lot of other interested parties (cities) in doing a team," Federal Hockey League Commissioner Don Kirnan said.
Wherever those cities might be, they might want to make sure they have a more sustainable plan than the Outlaws had here.
Williamsport mayor Gabriel J. Campana sounded extremely optimistic in July when he greeted media and fans at Bowman Field to announce the arrival of Williamsport's newest professional franchise.
Now, the city sits on the brink of having to swallow a $36,000 bill left by the defunct Williamsport Outlaws franchise. And the on-ice product failed to live up to the expected attendance numbers almost immediately.
"We had the Bills and we had the Tomahawks that did not pay their bills and we still have professional baseball in the city," Campana said.
The only problem, however, with citing baseball failures is the field was here prior to the team coming to Williamsport.
Yes, the area still has professional baseball. But Bowman field, the oldest minor league baseball stadium currently in use, wasn't going to be pulled up once those teams left town.
The franchise and mayor's biggest downfall was buying into the "Field of Dreams" belief. Build a rink, put in a hockey team, and the fans will come, particularly since this sport in Williamsport was a new idea. The problem with the logic was simply building an outdoor rink and adding a team didn't mean fans were going to come.
But minor league sports are all about marketing. And it's something the Outlaws missed completely in their time representing Williamsport.
There were no community skates that actually involved the team. No promoted pack the rink nights. A dearth of incentives to come out and watch the team.
Instead of catering to young fans and families interested in making hockey a part of their get togethers, the Outlaws hosted parties at different local bars after most home games. That proved to be a tough way to grow a product with staying power in Williamsport.
The city thought it was getting entertainment, not drinking buddies.
On the ice, though, the actual hockey exceeded expectations.
Despite multiple rink construction delays and losing their first three games, it's hard to dispute the team's success. As they departed Williamsport for a final time, the Outlaws remained in second place in the FHL standings.
The team also, for a time, boasted the league's top scorer in Rob Sich. Sich then had a controversial exit with the Outlaws, mostly because of his reluctance to play defense in coach Chris Firriolo's scheme.
The Outlaws' Matt Smyth took over as the FHL leader in goals after Sich left. The Outlaws also had the league leader in points and assists with Trevor Karasiewicz.
The team played well enough to attract fans, but playing outdoors in the winter was too big of an obstacle.
"I spoke to the Outlaws and they were interested in coming here," Campana said when asked who was initially responsible for bringing the team to Williamsport. "We introduced the area to hockey. There are still a lot of Outlaws fans. I believe if it was in an indoor facility it would be much more successful."
But, there never was an indoor facility, though a Facebook page called Let's Build an Ice Arena was launched this week in hopes someone can still build one.
Then there is the notion that the Outlaws folding could give another hockey team pause when considering Williamsport.
"If bills aren't paid, then possibly," Campana said. "If these are issues that the mayor is addressing in regards to outstanding bills, then I don't see why it would be a black eye. It gave the people of Williamsport the opportunity to experience ice for the first time."
The Outlaws ended the venture Monday by canceling their final home game and ceasing operations.
"They fulfilled their home schedule, they played their home schedule," Campana said early last week. "I have no idea why they decided not to move on and play the rest of their away games and possibly be a playoff team."
Campana has since locked the Outlaws and Kirnan out of Bowman Field until the bills are paid.
Online rumblings about the team's eventual demise began over the final stretch of games at Airmen Pond at Bowman Field.
The story of the Outlaws' failure almost came full-circle when they welcomed a once struggling Danville team in for what now proved to be the final home series. At one point over Williamsport's three month stay, Danville appeared to be the team in danger.
Rumors circulated that Danville was facing attendance problems. A delay in receiving their jerseys due to Hurricane Sandy only added to the speculation.
The two teams appeared to exchange roles like one of those life swapping movies as a depleted roster for Williamsport greeted the declining fans. If the shorthanded roster wasn't the perfect manifestation of the deteriorating interest in the team, the Outlaws play on the ice was.
Airmen Pond's final homestand ended with the Outlaws being blasted 12-4 over the course of the two-game series.
"From a hockey operations standpoint, this was a very challenging endeavor," Outlaws coach Chris Firriolo said. "We did this to bring professional hockey to Williamsport. We love the city. We love the dynamics the city is willing to offer. The problem was there was no rink."
But it didn't take someone on the inside to realize it gets cold in the winter. Or that there wasn't an indoor rink. Or even that people don't like to sit outside in the cold.
These are the reasons those involved have given for the massive failure that was Williamsport's first endeavor into professional hockey.
"I was at quite a few games," Campana said. "I would say I was at about eight games. When I was there I was quite satisfied with attendance. It was viable during warm weather, but once it got to late December and early January there weren't as many people. But fans there were diehard fans. Imagine if you had a controlled, indoor facility."
But not enough people were apparently willing to sit through the cold outdoor games imagining indoor hockey. Cutting ticket prices from $14 to $8 per game early in the season did little to help. An announced crowd of 3,447 gave the team a good start, but crowd sizes soon dwindled into the hundreds, where they stayed. And that opening night figure sounds inflated when it's considered that Bowman Field's capacity is listed at 4,200 and the box seats and other sections went unused that night because of poor rink sightlines.
"We knew how many fans we needed. There just wasn't enough," Kirnan said. "The owner (of the Outlaws) did everything that she needed to do. They did an excellent job of promoting. There were 4,000 fans the first night."
The Outlaws' official website listed the attendance at 3,447. Regardless of the number, the figure announced was good enough for an FHL single-game attendance record. It also was well over the "break-even" number of 1,200 to 1,500 fans per game as quoted by Kirnan.
"To break even we knew we needed 1,200 to 1,500 people each night," Kirnan said. "People didn't seem to want to attend games, and the cost became too much."
Just to put that number into perspective, the Crosscutters' average home attendance from the 2012 season was 1,700 fans, with most tickets costing less than half of the $14 the Outlaws initially charged.
That's 1,700 fans a game in the back yard of Little League in the middle of the summer, not a team trying to establish itself by bringing a new sport into the area.
Clearly, the mayor, the FHL and the Outlaws organization weren't expecting people to be bothered by the cold even though most used that as an excuse in one way or another.
"We knew how many fans we needed," Kirnan said. "There just was a lack of interest and support for the team."
"We had great support from the fans," former Outlaws captain Trevor Karasiewicz said. "All the fans said if it was warm outside they would show up. I don't even expect myself to sit outside and watch a game. It's not so bad for us when we're out there moving around. But for the fans, they look cold."
Karasiewicz, along with Chris Leveille, was selected by the Dayton Demonz in the league dispersal draft which took place Tuesday after the Outlaws officially folded. Other notable player pick-ups included Danbury, which signed Billy McCreary and Jeff Winchester, and 1000 Islands, which signed Matt Smyth and Paul Arnott Jr. Danville elected not to participate in the draft.
"It's tough, because you have the business side of it, which can get ugly at times, and you have the hockey side of it," Firriolo said. "For me, I'm here to coach the team and help oversee the organization.
"In my 20 years in this business this has been the most difficult challenge. It's not just the hockey part of it. It's operating an outdoor facility under the weather conditions and building a reputation in a new town," said Firriolo.
Fire and ice
The night of the Outlaws first weather-related pregame cancellation wasn't without incident.
An eagerly anticipated match-up with league-leading Dayton on Jan. 11 was called when a wet, sloppy day forced cancellation about an hour before start time, sending the Dayton players back to their rooms at The Genetti for some rest.
Around the same time as Dayton was checking in, a call erupted over the Sun Gazette's police scanner. Once hearing the call was for a bus fire in the Genetti parking lot, everybody grabbed their jackets and ran for the back of the building.
Initially, all that could be seen was a small light peaking its way out of the bus as black smoke filled the interior. Once around the back side, though, a much more vivid scene developed. The flames, which at one point looked like a small flashlight beam trying to escape through the smoke, reached out and chewed a sizable hole in the right side of the bus.
Just then, the line of Dayton players became visible. One leaned over to his teammate and said, "Welcome to the FHL" as the bus burned 20 yards away.
The fire was eventually put out without a single player injured, or a single piece of the their equipment damaged. But the bus was totaled.
The funny thing about the bus catching fire was, even with it happening less than 50 yards from Sun Gazette's back door, it was a rather slow night compared to some of the others faced during the FHL's hiccup in Williamsport.