#25: Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group Acquires Howell Ice Arena

Image of Howell Ice Arena

#25: Murry Gunty's Black Bear Sports Group Acquires Howell Ice Arena

Black Bear's 2nd Jersey Shore ice rink, 9th in New Jersey

An affiliate of Black Bear Sports Group has acquired Howell Ice Arena in Howell, NJ. The Monmouth County-based ice skating rink features two ice sheets, a snack bar and a pro shop. Over 500 local youth and high school hockey players use the Arena as their home ice rink.

“We are excited to add another ice arena in the Jersey Shore region to our portfolio,” said Murry Gunty, Founder and CEO of Black Bear. “We now have the foundation to create one of the strongest Tier II clubs in the state as well as the ability to develop a first class organization that plays AAA level competition that finally serves the needs of our families in that part of New Jersey."

Black Bear, which is based in Maryland, also owns and operates the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall and the Jersey Shore Wildcats youth hockey club. The company also announced the formation of the Atlantic Hockey Federation, a Tier II hockey league in the mid-Atlantic region.

“With our Jersey Shore Arena three-rink facility just five miles away, we expect to accommodate all of our existing customers’ needs and deliver higher-quality programming to the community with the two rinks working together,” Ryan Scott, vice president, said in a statement. “We expect to build on the strong foundation of figure skating and hockey at Howell Ice Arena and bring more tournaments and competitions to the area, including AHF showcases next season.”

Murry Gunty, Founder of Black Bear, announces 23rd Arena acquisition

Murry Gunty Announces Acquisition of Twin Ponds East Arena


Twin Ponds East Arena in Harrisburg, PA is the latest acquisition by an affiliate of Black Bear Sports Group. Featuring two NHL ice sheets and one smaller training sheet, pro shop, a café, and athletic turf designed for baseball training, the Arena is home to many figure skaters and youth hockey players in the area. They are frequently hosts to youth hockey tournaments and central Pennsylvania middle school and high school games throughout the year.

Black Bear, founded by CEO Murry Gunty in 2015, is the largest owner/operator of ice rinks in the U.S.

“Twin Ponds fits perfectly in our network of ice rinks including York, PA, Northern Maryland, Delaware and the Philadelphia region and in particular this rink will be a great fit for our new league, the Atlantic Hockey Federation and for our tournament businesses.” – Murry Gunty, Founder & Managing Partner of Blackstreet Capital

Formed by Black Bear Sports Group Partners alongside Ice Arena Owners, the Atlantic Hockey Federation is an elite tier-II youth hockey league that facilitates games throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The league has more than 225 teams.

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Black Bear Sports Group Acquires 16th Ice Arena

Gunty's Black Bear Sports Group Adds First Facility in Delaware

“We are excited to add Patriot to our growing portfolio of east coast ice rinks,” said Murry Gunty, Founder and CEO of Black Bear. 

An affiliate of Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. (“Black Bear”) has acquired the Patriot Ice Center in Newark, DE (the “Arena”). The Arena features one NHL-size ice rink and one Olympic-size ice rink, an athletic training gym, café, pro shop and a martial arts studio. The Arena is home to many young skaters and players in the area and, like many of Black Bear’s arenas, frequently hosts youth and adult hockey tournaments throughout the year. Black Bear was founded by CEO Murry Gunty in 2015.

​“The Mid-Atlantic region is producing more and more talented skaters and youth players. Delaware is known for quality figure skating but many young players are passionate about hockey here as well,” said Murry Gunty, Founder and CEO of Black Bear. “We are excited to add Patriot to our growing portfolio of east coast ice rinks.”

The Patriot Ice Center is the first acquisition for Black Bear in Delaware and 12th investment on the East Coast. Patriot complements Black Bear’s adjacent rinks including Ice World in Northeastern Maryland and three facilities in the nearby suburban Philadelphia area: Revolution Ice Gardens, Bucks County Ice Sports Center and The Igloo at Mt. Laurel.

“We are excited to improve the facility and strengthen the skating and hockey programming at Patriot,” said Ryan Scott, Vice President of Black Bear. “Our immediate priority is to structurally improve the ice surfaces to ensure the community has quality ice for the upcoming season and to renovate the building to enhance the customer experience going forward.”

New Assistant GM hired by Maryland Black Bears

New Assistant GM Hired by Maryland Black Bears

The Maryland Black Bears Head Coach and General Manager, Clinton Mylymok has announced that Ryan Kosecki will be joining the team as the Assistant General Manager. Kosecki is coming to the Black Bears from the USHL, where he spent the past two seasons as an Assistant Coach with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Kosecki is extremely familiar with the NAHL, having played in it from 1996-1998 as well as having scouted and coached in the NA3HL for several years. Ryan Kosecki had the following to say on his new position:

“I would first like to thank Maryland Head Coach/GM Clinton Mylymok, owner Murry Gunty, and the Maryland Black Bears organization for giving me this opportunity. I am excited to get to work for such a first-class program and help Maryland take that next step toward winning a Robertson Cup Championship.”

Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group Acquires 14th Ice Arena

Black Bear Sports Group Acquires 14th Ice Arena


The Igloo is a centrally-located hub for ice skating and hockey in southern New Jersey. With Revolution Ice Gardens to the west in Bucks County, PA, and Ice Land Skating Center to the north in Hamilton, NJ, we’re excited to add Igloo to our portfolio of ice rinks in the area,” said Murry Gunty, Founder and CEO of Black Bear. “The Jaguars are a very strong Tier-2 youth program and we look forward to finally providing Jaguars players the necessary pipeline to advance to their desired levels through our AAA Mercer Chiefs and Revolution Elite AAA youth programs along with our Junior Hockey teams in the Eastern Hockey League, North American Hockey League and USHL.”

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Penguin City Beer celebrates Phantoms

Murry Gunty’s Youngstown Phantoms honored with Penguin City Beer Can

Penguin City Beer, the official beer of the Youngstown Phantoms, will release a limited-edition can for the 2020 season.

The limited-edition can is a joint collaboration and will feature artwork by Youngstown Clothing Co. It will be available in select stores and at all home Phantoms games. The 12-ounce can won’t be available to purchase at Penguin City’s brewery. 

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Meeting the new boss

July 30, 2018 at 11:40p.m.
By GREG GULAS | The Vindicator

Youngstown Phantoms supporters met the junior hockey team’s new president Monday at the annual Sticks to Club golf outing at The Lake Club.

“The Phantoms, and the USHL in general, are all about providing young men the opportunity to play junior hockey while fulfilling their dreams of playing college hockey or being drafted by the NHL,” said Andrew Goldman, the new executive. “Events like this help to provide those components to the players.”

One-hundred-forty-four golfers participated and a banquet with a silent auction followed.

Bruce Zoldan remains co-owner of the team he created in 2009. Last month, Black Bear Sports Group purchased the 50 percent of the team that had been owned by Troy and Aafke Loney. Black Bear Sports Group is based in Maryland and was created in 2015.

Kevin Kuby, senior vice-president of operations, said, “We’re really excited about the opportunity to invest in the Youngstown Phantoms. We think it’s a great hockey club and we’re excited about partnering with Bruce as well.

“We feel that this club has a lot of opportunity for growth and it gives us an entree into the [USHL], which we’ve been looking for to augment our investment strategy.”

The Black Bear CEO is Murry Gunty.

“We’re honored to have this new group from the Washington, D.C. area,” Zoldan said. 

Murry Gunty has put together an outstanding group of former sports and business leaders as they are really connected and committed to hockey and ice arenas throughout the United States.”

“They own multiple rinks, a couple other hockey teams and have deep pockets.”

In March 2014, the Loneys purchased half of the Phantoms from Zoldan and ran the day-to-day operations.

Earlier this year, Loney, a former Pittsburgh Penguin forward and two-time Stanley Cup winner, took a pharmaceutical sales job that includes plenty of travel.

“I enjoyed my partnership and affiliation with Troy and Aafke,” Zoldan said. “Troy had a job offer that he couldn’t refuse.

“Black Bear Sports Group wants to see hockey sustain itself here, they want to see it grow and they would like to see the team be profitable, which I am going to work very hard with them to turn this into a successful business entity in the Mahoning Valley.”

Zoldan remains passionate about helping his players and is pleased with how the Sticks to Clubs outing has been embraced.

“I’ve been in the business the past 15 years or so with different hockey teams and never have I made a profit,” Zoldan said. “It’s always been the contribution to our community to have high level, young hockey here in Youngstown.

“The only goal I have, the mission I have is to get scholarships for these young men to go and play at an NCAA Division I school and knowing that they started out in Youngstown, Ohio.”

The recent NHL Draft saw three Phantoms selected. Goaltender Ivan Prosvetov (Arizona Coyotes) and forward Curtis Hall (Boston Bruins) were taken in the fourth-round and defenseman Michael Callahan was taken by the Coyotes in the fifth round.

In the spring, the Phantoms advanced to the USHL’s final series, the Clark Cup Finals, where they fell to the Fargo Force, 3-1.

“We’re looking to build off last year’s success,” head coach Brad Patterson said. “You get two more wins and we’re talking about a championship and that’s what you want to do at the start of the year.

“You want to put yourself in a position that you’re going to compete for a championship,” said Patterson who begins his third season as head coach. “That’s what we strive for and I like the group we have coming in.”

Patterson said the new owners have “been a great addition. They’ve come in, are very upbeat and positive and have brought a new energy around the rink so we’re really looking forward to the season.”

He also appreciates the support received from the golf outing.

“There’s a ton of support that comes through here,” Patterson said. “You see so many people that are familiar faces and who support us in different fashions, whether it’s through sponsorship or coming to the rink via tickets and that pays off.”

Black Bear Sports Group Acquires 11th Ice Arena

March 04, 2019

Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. (“BBSG” or the “Company”) has acquired the Revolution Ice Gardens in Warminster, PA (the “Arena”). The Arena houses two NHL-size ice sheets and is home to the Philadelphia Revolution Hockey Club, the Lady Patriots Hockey Club and various local high schools. BBSG was founded by Murry Gunty in 2015.

“The Revolution Ice Gardens is the hockey hub of North Philadelphia and Bucks County,” said Murry Gunty, CEO of BBSG. “Under the direction of Chris Kanaly, this rink has produced world-class hockey players like NHL draft pick Cayden Primeau. We are excited to help Chris grow the programs and in particular, to now be able to offer local youth players at the Revolution Ice Gardens a path to college hockey through our network of USHL, NAHL and EHL junior hockey teams.”

“The Arena is the 11th ice rink (20 sheets of ice) purchased by BBSG along with its three junior hockey teams,” said Ryan Scott, Vice President of BBSG. “Revolution is a great complement to our existing rinks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and we look forward to expanding our operations into Eastern PA.”

“Black Bear Sports Group owns junior hockey teams in the nation’s top leagues scouted by the NCAA and NHL,” said Chris Kanaly, General Manager of the Revolution Elite Youth Hockey Club. “The new affiliation between Revolution Youth Elite Hockey and Black Bear Sports Group creates a unique opportunity for our players to climb the ladder of development through junior hockey into college and pro that no other club in the city can offer.”

We wish BBSG great success in continuing the growth of ice sports in Bucks County,” said Phil and Devra Pulley, previous owners of the Arena and founders of the Revolution Hockey Club.

About Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. is a privately held company formed by Murry Gunty in 2015 that seeks investments in sports and entertainment facilities, teams and youth sports events. Our arenas are clean and professionally managed and offer world-class recreational offerings. We focus on ice arenas in metropolitan areas with compelling demographics, markets with a National Hockey League club presence and arenas with existing youth hockey clubs. We have the ability to acquire healthy and stable arenas, but also to turn around under-managed or under-performing facilities. Black Bear currently owns and operates eleven arenas across the United States with a total of 20 sheets of indoor ice, two indoor turf fields, two youth hockey clubs and junior hockey franchises in the USHL, NAHL and EHL.

Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Ryan Scott, 240-223-1338
[email protected]

Murry Gunty: “How do we keep making it better. How do you keep moving forward?”

In the 90-minute round trip between her home outside Baltimore where she was born and raised and Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Robyn Remick has time to think.

She weighs the responsibility of turning the Maryland Black Bears hockey team into central Maryland’s “hometown” team.

“The beauty of a long commute is that it allows you to really reflect on, ‘What did I do well today?’ I'm beyond the point in my career where I need accolades,” said Remick, 57, who lives in Reisterstown with her husband, Allan, and daughter Emily.

After a 35-year career in sales and marketing in which she lived all across the country working for the likes of Disney and ESPN, Remick was hired in October as president of the Tier II junior hockey team, becoming the first female president in the North American Hockey League’s 24-year history.

“She could have taken much bigger jobs,” said Murry Gunty, the Maryland Black Bears owner, who saw a kindred spirit in Remick — an innovator willing to consider any idea (within reason) and sell a vision to a hockey fan base that already exists in Maryland. “She is qualified to run a professional team.”

On game nights, Remick can be found at the front door of the arena, greeting the roughly 300 fans who attend each home contest.

“I welcome every single fan who comes in, and I tell them ‘Thank you for coming’ when they leave,” she said. “That is part of the Disney culture, which is, ‘Welcome, we are happy you here.’ You can't ever take that for granted and I never will.”

Remick often hands out her business card and answers late-night texts from the billet families who host hockey players at their homes. “The mission statement of ESPN is to take care of the fan,” she said.

Remick has been “passionate” communicating with and sharing her appreciation for those families, who are scattered across the area, said billet coordinator Amanda Hafler.

“It makes it a lot easier being a billet when you have that support,” said Hafler, who hosts Luke Mountain, a forward from Minnesota.

“She goes above and beyond when it comes to the players,” said head coach Clint Mylymok. “She’s highly available for all of us (and) very aware of what we’re trying to do here.”

These are the details Gunty marveled at when he first met Remick last year and invited her to a home game. She immediately began walking around the rink taking notes.

“Those are the best leaders,” Gunty said. “Whatever we accomplished today is old news. How do we keep making it better. How do you keep moving forward?”

Remick’s sharp eye for entrepreneurial opportunities was honed at ESPN, where she served in four different executive positions for 12 years before leaving in 2016.

“You could say, ‘You know what would be cool — if we did this?’ and two weeks later it would be on the air. That does not happen pretty much anywhere,” she said.

Working at the popular sports network came with its share of struggles, though. “It is a testosterone-filled environment that makes it twice as hard for a woman to be heard and to be accepted,” she said of ESPN. “It's not like you have to act like a guy, but you have to know your stuff.”

Since joining the Black Bears, Remick has faced similar challenges — like being mistaken for Gunty’s wife, something she brushed off as being “part of what happens when you are a female president of the company.”

These kinds of interactions seem to not bother her and have never hindered her “need to succeed” as she put it. Whether it was working three jobs to graduate with a degree in journalism from the University of Maryland in 1983 or selling MTV packages to pious Mississippians who called the channel a “force of evil,” she never took no for an answer. Remick sees herself as an example for the next generation of sports executives, regardless of their gender.

Gunty, who owns more than 20 companies, many of which have female executives, said, “I just go for the best person, whoever that is. I hope that there comes a time in our country when everybody looks at it like that.”

Remick says she has had to recalibrate her expectations somewhat. She had a staff of 30 or more at ESPN — now she oversees three people. Before a recent game, Remick and an intern ventured out into several inches of snow to post yard signs.

“It had to be done,” she said. “I can’t call in my people to do that.”

Though she may not have the same budget, Remick still has grand plans, like installing a center-ice scoreboard and hosting a military appreciation night to both keep fans coming back and represent the community that sits in the shadow of Fort Meade.

“We want the team to reflect this area and that's service to country, service to each other,” she said. That includes the Black Bears players. “We want every player who comes into this organization to leave here better than we got them. And that's more than on the ice. I want them to be better men.”

Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group keeps gobbling up hockey rinks

Crain’s Chicago Business
April 09, 2018

An East Coast investor that has been buying up skating rinks in the Chicago area has cut its fourth deal here, buying out the longtime owners of a facility in southwest suburban Crestwood.

Black Bear Sports Group said it has taken over the Southwest Ice Arena from the DiCristina family, which has owned the property since 1975. Chevy Chase, Md.-based Black Bear has been investing heavily in hockey rinks here, buying the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge in 2016 and last year acquiring American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood and Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

With the rising popularity of youth hockey, skating rinks look like a growth sector. For the 2016-17 season, 31,574 Illinois players were registered with USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body, up from about 24,000 before the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup.

But hockey rinks are expensive to operate, and several in the Chicago area have run into financial trouble the past several years. Black Bear’s predecessor, Blackstreet Capital Holdings, bought Seven Bridges out of foreclosure.

Black Bear often seeks out rinks that need additional investment, whether it involves overhauling refrigeration equipment or fixing up locker rooms. Owners of many privately held older rinks have either been unable or unwilling to spend the money needed to maintain the properties, creating an opportunity for an investor that can and will.

At Southwest, built in 1972, Black Bear plans to invest in new mechanical equipment and make some cosmetic improvements, ultimately spending $1 million over time, said founder and CEO Murry Gunty.

“This fits with our model of buying older facilities that need some money to bring them up to modern standards,” said Gunty, a former investment banker and private-equity executive who founded Black Bear in 2015.

He declined to say how much Black Bear paid for the arena at 5505 127th St., just west of the intersection of Interstate 294 and South Cicero Avenue. The property includes a full-sized hockey rink and a studio rink.

“Due to the age of (Southwest Ice Arena) I believe this was the best decision for the rink moving forward, knowing that major capital improvements will be addressed as they are needed,” rink owner Frank DiCristina wrote on the arena’s Facebook page. “Black Bear will embark on capital improvement projects which will extend the life of SIA for years to come.”

DiCristina will join Black Bear as a vice president in charge of the firm’s four Chicago-area rinks. DiCristina, who did not return a call, has worked in the rink business for more than three decades.

“One of the most attractive parts of the deal is we get Frank,” Gunty said.

Black Bear also aims to reach a long-term ice rental agreement with the St. Jude Knights, the youth hockey organization based at Southwest, he said.

Gunty’s entry into the rink business a few years ago was serendipitous. His private-equity firm, Blackstreet Capital, which specializes in buying and fixing distressed companies, was simply being opportunistic when it decided to pursue the opportunity to buy Seven Bridges out of foreclosure.

“We didn’t approach it as a plan to build a hockey business,” Gunty said. “We just thought we found a great deal.”

But Gunty, who played hockey as a boy and coaches his sons, decided that he could build something bigger. The firm owns nine rinks now, including five in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and Gunty said he aims to buy more.

But it has been a risky business, especially for groups that have built expensive new rinks in the past decade or so. Unable to cover their high debt costs, the Leafs Ice Center in West Dundee and International Ice Centre in Romeoville both wound up in foreclosure. The Romeoville property, which has three sheets of ice, was sold in 2011 for $3.7 million after being hit with an $18 million foreclosure suit.

“A brand-new facility is not able to charge any more than a dumpy old facility,” Gunty said. “The rink business is much like the luxury hotel business—you don’t want to be the first owner. You want to be the second or third owner.”