THE PHANTOM HISTORY STORY:
When it comes to recreational sports, rarely is there a team that is able to remain together for a long period of time. One of those rare occurrences is the success that the West Michigan Phantoms have enjoyed since the team began playing during September of 2002. While the first game under the Phantom banner did not occur until September 13, 2002, the group that origi ally made up the yellow and black dates back nearly three years prior. It started out as drop-in hockey at the Fun Spot in Muskegon. For nearly three years, every Sunday night would be a gathering place for a selected group of players to come and enjoy the game of hockey. The Fun Spot, now known as Jumpin' Jupiter Skating Center, created an indoor location for Muskegon area players to play in-line hockey. While the skating rink did not feature a scoreboard, did not feature a clock and did not feature a very competitive arsenal of talent, it was a location that allowed several friends the ability to play hockey and meet others. One of those friendships that was created was between Nate Tyler and Kevin Wootton. During the Fun Spot period, some of the players also played outdoor hockey at Seyferth's Park in Muskegon. During the Seyferth's battles, a group of neighborhood kids and adults would play against each other on the SportCourt rink. Art Dorsey, a Phantom Founding Father, was instrumental in developing a large group of Seyferth Regulars. Eventually, that group would see an increase in talent and that talent would be pooled together to create a team that would tangle with Ground Zero. Ground Zero was a group of high school students (mostly from Mona Shores), which played inline hockey as a team at Westwood Ranch in Grand Rapids. Despite the constant losses, the neighbor group would continue to battle and play hockey. Art Dorsey, Kevin Wootton, Randy Lawson, Keith Mooreman are just a few of those neighborhood kids and adults that use to be defeated by the likes of Gordie Anderson, Casey Rosenberg, Brett Smith, and the rest of Ground Zero team (also known as the Dragons in the earlier days).
Back at the Fun Spot, the condition of playing in-door hockey during the summer months always saw a dramatic fall in the amount of skaters showing up each week. During the Summer of 2002, that reduction in players would create less income for the roller skating rink and despite Fun Spot employees playing hockey, it was decided that all the work and time was not worth continuing hockey during the summer. The stoppage of Sunday hockey at the Fun Spot created a problem for those players that still wanted to play a somewhat organized brand of hockey. Under the organization from Art Dorsey and Kevin Wootton, the two found out about Rivertown Sports in Grandville and figured this would be the cure for the sudden loss of hockey. During the summer, the two contacted several former Fun Spot players and decided to create a team for the upcoming fall season at Rivertown Sports. Prior to the start of Rivertown hockey, Art Dorsey sealed an agreement with the L.C. Walker Arena to allow the players to practice on the arena's concrete floor. That practice would be the perfect start to develop the team and prepare it for much stronger competition in the Grand Rapids suburb. During the several practices that took place, the players all voted on a team name and team jerseys and Kevin Wootton used those final tallies to create the look that the newly formed team displayed at Rivertown Sports during the September 13, 2002 season opener. During that game, the new Copper League team fell to the Rage 6-2. Despite the loss, the team did finish the eight-game-season with a record of 5-3 and even advanced to the championship game in the team's inaugural season, yet fell to Off the Wall by the final of 1-0.
Following the first season of Phantom Hockey at Rivertown Sports, the team decided to return for a second. During the Winter 2002 season, the team did not meet expectations and finished the 10 game season with a 4-5-1 record. The team would not qualify for the post-season. During nearly the entire season attitudes would not be the greatest and tension among players would increase. There was mounting pressure from some to make player changes and leadership changes. Despite the pressure, Art Dorsey and Kevin Wootton would not give in to certain calls for change and as a result several players decided to not return for the team's third season. This sudden loss created numerous openings on the team's roster. From the Fun Spot, only Nate Tyler and Rob Brown would continue to hang with the Phantoms. Within a matter of weeks, several players interested in joining the Phantoms were calling. Players like Mike Shaver (who was underage for his first two Phantom seasons) and Matt Mead joined the team. Art and Kevin then returned to their roots of Seyferth's Park and picked up former Ground Zero players Gordie Anderson and Brett Smith. Matt Zehr, who played during the first two seasons, talked to his younger brother Brad about playing and Brad signed up without hesitation. Brian Doctor, who graduated with Matt and Kevin in 2001 from Mona Shores, agreed to return for his third season. Before the team knew it, the roster was full and during that third season the Phantoms cruised to a perfect 10-0 regular season record. Despite the new powerhouse in the league, the Phantoms suffered an opening round play-off defeat to the players that left the Phantoms. The Vipers won the game 2-1, yet they fell in the championship game. The loss by the Phantoms was hard, but the following season the team returned and captured revenge from the Vipers, defeating them 4-0 in the championship game to capture the first Phantom Championship. Ironically, following the play-off loss to the Vipers during the third season, the Phantoms captured the next 4-0 games against the Vipers, two of which were in the play-offs.
During the third, fourth and fifth seasons of Phantom Hockey at Rivertown Sports, the team cruised to a 33-3-1 record for that three-season period, outscoring the opponents 258-102. Because of the very successful statistics for the team, Rivertown Sports forced the Phantoms into the Bronze League for the Winter 2003 Season (Phantoms 6th Season). The Phantoms finished 7-3-1 in their first Bronze season, yet fell to Creekside Gardens (now known as Bolthouse Farms) 3-2 in the opening round of the play-offs. From that point, the team continued playing hockey at Rivertown Sports and even featured two teams (Bronze and Copper) for a couple of those seasons. New players kept on being brought into the system. The team continued to grow and gain talent. Other teams at Rivertown also continued to grow in talent and that increased competition only made the players on the Phantoms better. Some seasons were good for the Yellow and Black; others were not so good. The idea of playing recreational in-line hockey was only a short-term goal. Yet during the Winter 2004 season, the Phantoms marked the team's Tenth Anniversary Season. Because of school, work and conflicts with everyday life, the Phantoms experienced occasional problems with skilled players being able to play. That lack of talent would create some forgetful seasons for the Phantoms, yet the team of friends would continue to play. During the Fall 2005 season (Phantoms 13th), the team did not make the play-offs. For that season, as well as the next two, the team would not be in the play-offs and finished the period with an overall 13-16 record. With the Copper league being so strong, the team decided to drop down to Brass (one league down). That move would create the final three seasons that the Phantoms would play at Rivertown Sports. In that first Brass Season, the Phantoms finished 8-1-0-1 and defeated DeKleine Builders 4-0 in the championship game for the team's second championship. The life and heart of the Phantom team was back. During the following season, the team fell victim to Dynamo in the opening round of the play-offs. During the next season (Phantoms 17th), the team fell to BioHazard 4-3 in overtime during the championship game. While the Phantoms enjoyed much success during the Brass seasons, there appeared to many on the Yellow and Black that numerous teams and forces were against the team that was the longest consecutive running team at Rivertown. That tension against the Phantoms created several situations in which other players were taking advantage of the Phantoms by fighting, cheap shots and playing extremely rough against the Yellow Squad. Added to the mix, were numerous penalties and questionable calls that were granted to the Phantoms, yet it appeared the Phantoms were the only group that was being 'singled-out'.
During the Fall 2006 Phantom season (Phantoms 17th), the team started discussing its plans for the following season. Of the main core of players, several stated they would not return to Rivertown as a result of what they considered an unfair treatment to the Phantoms. An announcement was made on September 24th that announced the team would leave Rivertown Sports and play a season at Lazerskate Sports Plex in Cedar Springs. That announcement created a very large boost of energy and ultimately brought the entire Phantom Family back together. Several players, including Gordie Anderson, Casey Rosenberg and Matt Zehr, agreed to return from 'in-line retirement' and return to the Phantoms. The change in playing nights from Friday to Sunday allowed Mike Shaver and Matt Myers to again return to the Phantom lineup. The Phantoms also contacted Ty Coon and Andy Roseart, who played against the Phantoms for several seasons at Rivertown Sports, about joining the Yellow Squad.
On Sunday, October 15th the Phantoms made their Lazerskate debut. During that opening game, the entire Phantom team had nothing but positive words for the rink, the competition and Lazerskate in general. The team is very proud to have made the move to Lazerskate and proud that the team that is now on the rink again with several players that have been such a large art of the success of the Phantoms for over the past four years. Despite no active Phantom teams playing at Rivertown following that Fall 2006 departure from Rivertown to Cedar Rock, many Phantoms and former teammates continued to play on and off again at Rivertown prior to the start of what became of the Good Ole Boys in the Winter of 2008. The Good Ole Boys captured three championships in the Aluminum division from the Winter of 2008 through the teams last season Spring 2010. With the Good Ole Boys splitting up to play ice hockey in the Spring of 2010, the half that remained at Rivertown took on a group of Phantom members that were playing on the main Phantom squad at Cedar Rock and formed 'Phantom South'. 'Phantom South,' played three seasons at Rivertown Sports and earned a trip to the championship game in each of the team's three seasons. In the spring of 2011, the team decided to shift out of Rivertown Sports and begin a new era for the team at Walker Ice & Fitness. In May of 2011, the Phantoms began their first season ever on the Ice and continued to also keep their Cedar Rock team going strong. In that first Ice Season, the Phantoms were able to go 11-3-0-1 on the season.
In July 2011, Cedar Rock Sports Plex announced that they were converting the inline rink that the Phantoms and many other teams have skated on since 2006 to Ice beginning in the Fall of 2011. After listening to the members of the Phantoms, it was decided that the team would not return to Cedar Rock in the Fall of 2011, but rather shift and merge both Phantom teams (ice nd inline) into one team at Walker Ice and Fitness for the Winter 2011 season beginning in October 2011. In closing, Kevin Wootton would like to especially thank Nate Tyler and Matt Zehr, for playing with the team since the team was started back in 2002. Also, thanks to Brian Doctor, Gordie Anderson, Brad Zehr, Art Dorsey, Brett Smith, Matt Mead and Adam Trahan for their service both on the rink and in helping make important decisions and giving input that was used to keep the team going during various stages of the teams past. Everyone who has worn the Yellow and Black plays a very important part of the history of this team. We are all a group of players that are playing a game we all enjoy and not only are we friends, We Are The Phantoms!
[Note: In June 2008, Lazerskate Sports Plex changed its name to Cedar Rock Sports Plex. (Same Owners, Different Name)].