CAPE VINCENT Just hours after hoisting the Commissioners Cup after winning the Federal Prospects Hockey League Championship on May 2, many Watertown Wolves headed north to Cape Vincent to celebrate.
They gathered at The Roxy Hotel and Restaurant, owned by the new owner of the Wolves team, Tyler Weese, to enjoy the moment. Thus, they ushered in the newest era of the franchise.
They came out here when they won the cup that night, Weese said at the establishment Friday. They didn’t get out of here until about one o’clock, Weese said. But we fed them, I gave them a $30 bar credit each. I gave (keeper) Adam Beukeboom fifty because he had a great game, he had some good saves in that game.
The next day, the deal to buy the team became official, as Weese, a local businessman, had bought the franchise in April from Andreas Johansson, the previous majority shareholder.
That was when (the team) met me, Weese said. They had seen me in the locker room with (previous owner) Andreas (Johansson) and I think they kind of knew what was going on. And after the game (Wolves coach) Brent (Clarke) said hey, we went to the Roxy to get some food. And they all came out, everyone was here with their girlfriends, it was fun. And then I met them.
They were super pumped up, had a super good season and a great (final) race.
Weese, who bought The Roxy in February, is both a local entrepreneur and a real estate investor.
It just made sense, Weese said of buying the team. I’ve always loved hockey and I’ve always been a fan and this is just a really cool way to give back to the community. It’s an advertising tool, it’s a networking tool. It’s fun, it’s fun and we wanted to make (the team) even better.
Weese didn’t even consider buying a hockey team until several months ago when he was approached by Curtis Mosely, a friend who is also his jiu-jitsu instructor, who was the equipment manager for the Wolves last season.
Curtis mentioned it and he already did a lot of things for the team, said Weese. And that evolved into hey, the teams for sale. And I still thought it was far-fetched when I heard it. Just because I thought, this really isn’t my domain when it comes to owning a sports team, and I kind of laughed at Curtis when he first brought it up.
Mosely introduced Weese to Johansson and it wasn’t long before he was sold for the ability and potential to own the Wolves.
And meeting Andreas and checking the numbers and stuff, made sense to do it. And if you want to do it, you have to do it the right way, Weese said. There are some possibilities in terms of what we can do to make it better, what we can do to change it and make it a better fan experience.
Weese says many of the Wolves will return next season, including Clarke, who led the team to its third championship, as well as Mosely.
I told Clarke and Mosely, I said I’m not buying this team unless you guys give me a three-year contract with you, said Weese, who signed both Clarke and Mosely to three-year deals. Because they were the integral part of that team and were the ones running the day-to-day operations. They were the ones who coordinated a lot with the local community.
It’s a fresh start, Clarke said. A lot of things were changing this year, like the team colors that were going to change a little bit. There’s a new look coming for the Wolves and I think people will like it.
Mosely has been promoted and is now the Wolves director of hockey operations.
Clarkie told me the team was going to be sold and didn’t know what the future would hold, said Mosley, who is retired from the US military. And I said let me talk to Tyler, I know he’s a good businessman and he likes to reinvest his profits. And it’s a really great situation, it’s a team I believe in and with him here it’s a winning combination.
Weese is the newest local owner of the Watertown franchise, dating back to 2014 when a local ownership group bought the team. After the team was inactive the following season while renovations were made to the Watertown Municipal Arena, the franchise was sold to league commissioner Don Kirnan after the 2016-17 season.
Johansson, a Rochester-based business entrepreneur who owns the FPHL’s Binghamton Black Bears, bought the Wolves franchise in 2020.
Weese wishes Johansson the best, but believes improvements could be made to the franchise, such as adding the fan experience on game nights.
And I’m a full-time local, while Andreas wasn’t, Weese said. He wasn’t here as much as I will be. But he did well, he formed a championship team. And would go even further.
Also, with Weese and Mosely, both retired military veterans who served on Fort Drum, they’re both excited about the potential to tap into the grassroots population to recruit new fans.
It’s huge, said Weese, who served in the United States Air Force. It’s fun for me and Curtis because we were both veterans, so we kind of have the keys (to the basics). So we can go there and talk to our old commanders, our old squadrons, our old battalions… and engage them in this.
Weese said they hope to expand promotional evenings, such as honoring first responders, and come up with new ideas to honor the military.
Mosely said he believes the competition will expand to 10 teams, with the return of Elmira and the addition of a team in Detroit, and in Biloxi, Miss. The new Mississippi team gives the league three teams in the Southeast, including North Carolina Carolina Thunderbirds and Georgias Columbus River Dragons.
Weese is already showing his devotion to the Wolves team and plans to fly the Wolves to matches in these cities, rather than relying on the team to take a bus.
(Clark’s) team was not treated as well as some of the other teams in this league for their respective markets and they stuck together, Weese said. They had a great season and it shows a lot especially with Brents leadership and management keeping the guys together. The bus would break down a lot, those road trips are not easy and they played their (butts) out. So at least I owe them the ability next season to take care of them and give them what they need.
Weese also said that he didn’t necessarily buy the Wolves to make a profit, but has loftier goals.
My biggest goal with this is that I’m not really doing this to take financial resources out of the team, Weese said. I want to be able to get back on track and just make it better for everyone involved. And I’m patient with it, I don’t need the income.
Born in West Virginia, Weese is a lifelong hockey fan, having grown up as a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, then led by Hall of Famer Mario Lemeieux.
He likes what he sees in the Wolves team, and a high flying squad that also works hard and has a hard playing style.
It’s very entertaining, it’s fun to watch those guys play, Weese said. Because it’s high-level hockey and they’re passionate about what they’re doing, and they play hard and they’re loyal to each other as a team.
Weese also said several players are returning to the team for next season, including team captain Justin MacDonald, as well as defender Justin Coachman, who is a fan favorite with his rough play.
They’re great and they obviously haven’t saved them all for next year, a few are leaving, Weese said. J-Macs will be back, I’ve already talked to him, that’s important and of course Brent can build a great team.
As for the Wolves’ visit to The Roxy on the night they won their last championship, Weese was unable to attend because he was at work that night. But he did watch the game, which was won in two overtime by Watertown in the longest game in the history of the competition, from the bar via a live stream.
I know when we watched the championship game we had 50 people here and 40 of them didn’t even know the wolves existed, Weese added. And by the end of the game they were all cheering, they were all competing. And then the team came here and they met me and it was just a good experience.