Troy Loney is one of those Penguins Stanley Cup winners who just can’t quit Pittsburgh. But he is moving on from hockey. Again.
Loney, a winger on the 1991 and ’92 Pittsburgh Penguins championship teams, and his wife, Aafke, on Friday completed the sale of their ownership stake in the Youngstown Phantoms of the junior hockey USHL after a highly successful four seasons.
“It just kind of came out of the blue,” Loney, 54, said. “When you own a team in that league, you get a lot of offers all the time. We probably had five offers, six offers since the day we got there. We weren’t looking to sell the team. This just came up very quickly. It came up during the playoffs, and away we went.”
They sold their stake to Black Bear Sports Group of Maryland, with Phantoms Fireworks owner Bruce Zoldan retaining his stake and the team remaining in Youngstown.
Loney, 54, had a reason to listen to the latest offer. In December an pharmacy benefit management company called RxSense lured him as their executive vice president of sales. He previously worked in that industry and was highly successful despite not having a college degree.
So for six months he had been juggling two full-time gigs, with Aafke picking up the slack with the Phantoms. Loney said his wife is going to take a breather and figure out what’s next.
“It was a great experience,” Loney said of his time back in hockey. “It was a hard experience. Lots of moving pieces. We think we left the organization … well, we know we left the organization better than it was when we arrived, both on and off the ice. We won a regular-season championship. We made it to the playoffs all but one year. We went to the finals this season. All good in that regard.
“We put a lot of structure there, some financial improvements, and then on the ice the team just continued to improve. Kind of makes you feel good when that kind of stuff happens.
“But life moves on. It just seemed to be a good time to do this.”
Phantoms A Rewarding Experience
The transaction won’t end his attachment to the organization. He will follow the careers of players who played there – as his son, Ty, did previous to the Loneys’ ownership.
Washington Capitals rookie Nathan Walker, who was with Youngstown pre-Loneys, got into one playoff game with the Stanley Cup champions and skated with the Cup.
Winger Kyle Connor, whose last season in Youngstown was the Loneys’ first, was a first-round pick by Winnipeg, played a season at Michigan and just finished a good rookie season with the Jets.
“Getting to see players that have been a part of (the team) and have that happen, it was pretty rewarding,” Loney said.
The USHL is the premier American junior league, serving as a pipeline to college scholarships and the NHL draft.
The Loneys were hands-on co-owners of the team of teenagers. Really hands-on.
They commuted an hour each way from their home in the suburbs north of Pittsburgh. They oversaw everything from mentoring young players, coaches and other staff, to promotions, to connecting with the community, to the minutia, such as paint color in various parts of the arena. Here’s a good look at just how involved they were.
Roots Remain In Pittsburgh
During their time with the Phantoms, the Loneys became grandparents twice over.
Their son Reed and wife Kara, who live in Michigan where Reed works for Howies Hockey Tape, have a 2-year-old son, Fox. Ty (an AHL player formerly in the Penguins system who now is exploring opportunities in Europe) and his wife, Bailey have an infant son, Isaiah.
“World’s moving fast, that’s for sure,” Loney said.
Loney might be moving with it in terms of business, but he’s staying put in the Pittsburgh area. RxSense is based in Boston, and he travels there, but he is not relocating.
He remains tight with the Penguins. The Phantoms annually held a Penguins night with former players. The team participated in the USHL Fall Classic at the Penguins’ Lemieux UPMC practice facility. And the junior club teamed with the Penguins Foundation to build a dekhockey rink at Mill Creek Park in Youngstown.
A fair number of the Penguins Cup winners from the ‘90s remain in Western Pennsylvania, starting with that Mario Lemieux fellow. The same is starting to happen with players who have been on more recent Cup teams, including winger and ’09 champion Tyler Kennedy.
Loney, a native of Alberta in Western Canada, said he has noticed a big shift in that area after finding that only a few former Penguins were in the area when he arrived.
“When you win, you stay places you win,” he said. “I think it’s a combination (of things). Comfort level, right? People kind of know your name a little. That helps you out.
“And it’s an awesome city. I don’t know how people wouldn’t want to live here.”