After one dry season, the oil is rising again in Wooster, Ohio. The Wooster Oilers have announced their return to the USPHL Premier and its Great Lakes Division after a one-year absence. The Oilers will play in 2020-21 under new ownership and management from top to bottom, with Wooster Youth Hockey Association co-founders Marty Kerr and Eric Robinson taking ownership of the nearly 15-year-old junior organization.
“Wooster is a small community with a youth hockey organization that is part of the Cleveland Suburban Hockey League, so hockey is a big part of the community,” said Kerr. “It is so big that when the Oilers [junior team] could not put together a team last year, the town rink, the Alice Noble Ice Arena, almost closed without that revenue. The Wooster Youth Hockey Association and members of the Wooster Ice Community put together a pledge drive and we raised nearly $200,000 annually over three years to save the rink. It was a tough year, but we worked hard.
The prior owners of the Oilers made the decision to sell after the junior team went dormant. Robinson met with them, and within a few months over this past year, the paperwork was completed and ownership of the Oilers junior team was transferred to Robinson and Kerr.
Robinson has been involved with Wooster hockey since returning home from Afghanistan in 2013. He has coached at the 8U and 10U levels, as well as helped with the Learn To Play and Learn To Skate programs. He continues to serve his country and community as a Platoon Sergeant with the Ohio National Guard, where he has served for 17 years and has been awarded two bronze stars. He also serves veterans and their families through his work at the National Cemetery.
Kerr has been involved in youth athletics for over a decade. He has served as a hockey team manager, head baseball coach, treasurer of the Cloverleaf Youth Baseball Association, and taught martial arts to at-risk youth. He holds a second-degree black belt in Karate and Kajukempo and has competed and coached in martial arts around the world. Kerr has an Accounting Degree, MBA in International Finance, and a Juris Doctor from The University of Akron. He is a member of the Ohio Bar and is currently employed at Stark & Knoll.
Welcome To Oil Country
Despite any trepidation in the hockey world over a formerly dormant team returning, there was no way the new ownership group was going to rename the junior organization. The Oilers name reverberates around the Wooster community, and pays tribute to a surprising local history.
“People might say, ‘It’s Ohio - where’s the oil?’ If you drive around Wooster, there are oil pumps everywhere,” said Kerr. “Wooster and Wayne County was historically a big oil area. Also, we wanted to keep the name to align with our youth organization. We have a big banner at the arena that says ‘Welcome to Oilers Country,’ showing youth players all the way up to high school, and now we can add the juniors to that banner.”
With players from the age of 6 playing under the Oilers name, it ties the community together and “gives the youth players something to aspire to.”
“This will help us to grow hockey in Ohio. If you look at the Boston area and Minnesota, their hockey pedigrees go back generation after generation, but we’re in the early stages of hockey being a breakout sport in Ohio,” said Kerr. “We’re going to have a great rivalry here with Toledo [Cherokee] and Columbus [Mavericks], as well as with Lake Erie [Bighorns], right over the border in Pennsylvania.”
The Oilers not only have the ownership infrastructure now in place to bring the team back, but they also have hired a new head coach for the 2020-21 season, and for that, the Oilers went back to their alumni directory. Jordan Roemer is a former Wooster Oilers player who has just completed a season as Assistant Coach of the Eastern Michigan University ACHA team, for which he played following his time with the Oilers.
Romer is staying busy on the recruiting front and getting the word out among his contacts that Wooster is back and the Oilers are looking for top-flight talent and character for their return season.
“We have players who were with the Oilers two years ago as well as players who moved away to play but who want to come back and play in front of local fans,” said Kerr.
The Oilers are approaching their 15-year anniversary season, as they were originally founded in 2006. The team has played in many different leagues over its history, but the new ownership is extremely excited to be part of the Nation’s Largest Amateur Hockey Organization, the USPHL, which is home to the nation’s largest junior league, the USPHL Premier, with more than 60 teams stretching from Maine to California. Despite the large footprint, divisional play keeps travel to a minimum and puts the focus more heavily on time spent developing each athlete.
There were more than 1,200 former USPHL players competing in college hockey during the 2019-20 season alone, along with more than 250 pro players, including several in the NHL.
“When the Oilers entered the USPHL, that really legitimized the team,” said Kerr. “Last year, there was a hiccup, but if you ask me what my Year 1 goals are, they are to put a team together and bring the whole Wooster community into it.”
To learn more about the Wooster Oilers, go online to woosteroilers.com.
To learn more about the USPHL, go online to USPHL.com.