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Professional hockey returns to Brooklyn this winter

They are a new team in a new league with a new coach, but professional hockey returns to Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn this winter.

On Wednesday, the Northeast Professional Hockey League and the Aviator Sports and Events Center announced the addition of a new franchise, the New York Aviators. The A’s will be one of six teams in the new Single A league, which will have a 44-game regular season schedule beginning in November.

“We are thrilled to have been invited to field a team in the NEPHL, it’s the highest compliment to the staff and community of the Aviator Sports and Events Center,” said Kevin R. McCabe, leader of the New York Aviators ownership group said in a statement.

Last year Aviator was home to the Brooklyn Aces of the Eastern Professional Hockey League. The team advanced to the finals, losing to the Jersey Rockhoppers in a best-of-three series.

When EPHL commissioner and founder Jim Riggs announced he was leaving to accept an executive position with the Quad City Mallards in the International Hockey League, the EPHL was left for dead.

Rob Miller was a player/assistant coach on that Brooklyn Aces team and he’ll be back in Brooklyn this winter as the head coach of the A’s.

“I’m very excited to get back into coaching,” Miller said. “I’m glad the Aviator family gave me a chance to do that and I’m ready to start getting some players.”

Miller was born on Staten Island and lived there for 10 years until moving to Morristown, N.J. He played at New Hampshire College and Salem State College before beginning a professional career which included stints with the Jacksonville Barracudas, the Lakeland Loggerheads, the Knoxville Ice Bears and finally the Brooklyn Aces, where the defenseman had 21 assists in 22 regular-season games.

The 30-year-old said he’s hung up his skates and is now concentrating all of his efforts on coaching. This isn’t his first coaching gig, either. He was an assistant coach with the Walpole Express, a junior hockey team in Massachusetts and was a head coach of the Livingston High School varsity team.

“I like to have an aggressive team, not only in the offensive end,” Miller said. “I think Brooklyn people, it’s more of a rough-and-tumble type of area. That’s how I like it. It’s how I played and how I coached before.”

The NEPHL will reportedly have a weekly salary cap of $4,000 and, unlike other hockey leagues, all payroll, insurance and workers compensation paid from the league office comes from the individual teams.

The A’s join Massachusetts-based teams in Fitchburg, Salem and Saugus, as well as the Rhode Island Storm.

“The addition of The New York Aviators puts the footprint of the Northeast Professional Hockey League in New York an asset to any professional league,” league commissioner Pat Lovett said in a statement.

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