A debut article by Matthew Soper
Hot off the press Beat Writer, Matthew Soper, joined our team with the desire to document a historical look at each team that is, and has been in the SFL over the years. His debut piece takes a look at the fortunes of journeyman owner, Ronnie Nickens, from his Season 1 ownership of the Dallas Stars (not the NHL franchise) through to his Season 9 stint with the Cleveland Stallions. That’s enough from me, so every word you read from here on was penned by one of our new breed. Take it away Matthew!
The early years of the SFL were rough but rewarding for Ronnie Nickens. The team that finally ended in Cleveland are considered the SFL’s answer to the USFL Breakers. The team, owned by Ronnie Nickens, would spend the first three seasons in Dallas, calling themselves the Stars. While the first two seasons were troublesome at best, the third and final season in Dallas was their worst. They lost every game, including a heartbreaking loss to the San Francisco Bulldogs in the final week of the season.
After the season was over, Ronnie saw the writing was up on the wall. Because Dallas was home to the Cowboys and the Stars of the NHL, which made it hard to compete in a market stacked with established teams from other leagues. Combined with poor performances during all 3 seasons, the franchise was forced to leave the Lone Star State and move to Cleveland.
In Cleveland for the first time, he called the team the Vipers. With a new identity and stadium, Cleveland would serve as a good home. However, fans in Cleveland wouldn’t be impressed by the new team. Cleveland, like Dallas beforehand, is home to the Browns and fans had a hard time looking forward to the team. This lack of fan support and poor performances gave the team a last place finish in Season 4.
After season 7, it became clear that a move was needed for the Vipers. After the season, the Vipers upped sticks again and moved to the Sin City to become the Las Vegas Gamblers. This move would be a one and done deal as the Gamblers would fail to find a lomg term home after the first year and the franchise retreated back to Cleveland.
Back in Cleveland, Ronnie decided to rename the franchise for a third time, this time rolling with the Cleveland Stallions, hoping to get the crowd and fans to support the team. However, the team ultimately failed, and after the season ended, Ronnie Nickens would dissolve his team. Despite his best efforts, Nickens would only reach the promised land of the playoffs once, never making it to the Championship Game. Whilst not leaving a legacy of success, Nickens left an imprint of entertainment on the league, with his teams never failing to get pulses racing.
Make sure to keep a watchful eye for more journeys through time, led by Matthew Soper.