The Battlehawks are in familiar hands but under new ownership after the Ifab Sports Group purchased the Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League (UFHL) franchise from Serge Beauchesne this past week.
Ifab is a five-person ownership group from Italy that includes Mik Portoni and Alessandro Schianchi, who will continue in their roles as General Manager and Assistant GM for the Battlehawks. They were hired by Beauchesne a little over a year ago, in June 2021, to operate the franchise and enjoyed the UFHL experience so much that they put together an ownership group to buy the Battlehawks, among other UFFS franchises. That group of five shareholders also features Luisa Portoni as majority owner, Davide Grignaffini as nominal owner, and Luca Cesaretti as their media manager. Mik doubles as their director of scouting, while Davide also serves as their IT director and cryptocurrency advisor.
Amid a down market for most crypto currencies, the Battlehawks fetched a record amount of SCORE Coin at 416,670 SCO ($5,500 USD at time of sale). The previous record for SCO in a franchise sale was 400,000 for the UFHL’s Gators in December 2021. New ownership also assumes upcoming expenses for the 2022-23 entry fee as well as the Entry Auction payments that will be processed after UFFS relaunches on the CUDOS blockchain this month.
“After spending one full year at the helm, putting in a great effort to start shaping the Battlehawks’ roster of the future, me and Alessandro realized we needed to step up when (in July), all of a sudden, Serge showed the intention to sell the franchise,” Mik said of the surprising sale. “We built a smooth, professional relationship with Serge throughout our first season in the UFHL and we are grateful to him for giving us precedence, allowing us to move forward with our plan.
“Our vision for the Battlehawks is long term, aiming to achieve sustainable competitiveness with a focus on scouting and players’ development. The UFHL takes fantasy hockey to another level, the high stakes and the quality of the competition make it a challenging league, and we know we need to advance step by step to give ourselves the best chance to succeed. We are looking forward to seeing our team grow over the years.”
Ifab Sports Group also owns the Street Spirits franchise in UFBA (basketball) and the Isotopes franchise in UFLB (baseball), so hockey becomes their third sport within the UFFS ecosystem. Schianchi is heavily involved in all three on the gameplay side and will be Mik’s right-hand man with the Battlehawks, also dabbling as a scout with Draftin Europe — a real world hockey scouting agency, founded by Portoni, that is plying its trade on the innovative UFFS platform. Draftin Europe is affiliated with the Battlehawks, serving as both a feeder system and a revenue generator with an opportunity to monetize their eye for talent.
“After entering the UFFS ecosystem with the Battlehawks, I added roles as GM, Assistant GM and scout with our group’s teams in basketball and baseball,” Schianchi said. “It’s been a pleasure and honor to work for Serge, but I can’t wait to start doing business with our very own Battlehawks now! Busy times ahead!”
The Battlehawks have been a perennial playoff team — qualifying for the Klein Cup Playoffs in each of the three seasons thus far — but have yet to advance past the first round in the ultra-competitive Gretzky Division.
Their roster is a nice mix of present stars and future studs, featuring German defender Moritz Seider as their franchise player — fresh off winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year. That blue line also boasts Brent Burns and Drew Doughty, while John Tavares, Logan Couture, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha headline the forward group with Yegor Chinakhov and Lukas Reichel among the next wave of prized prospects as recent first-round NHL draft picks.
The goaltending is more of a question mark now that they traded $10-million-dollar-man Sergei Bobrovsky in the blockbuster for Couture, which also brought back Sharks netminder Adin Hill. But Hill is in a crowded crease with returnee James Reimer and recently signed Kaapo Kahkonen in San Jose, while their other goaltender Casey DeSmith remains the backup to Tristan Jarry in Pittsburgh with the Penguins also signing Dustin Tokarski.
Perhaps the Battlehawks will look to their Draftin Europe stable for their goaltender of the future with a few intriguing possibilities including Dennis Hildeby, the big Swede who was drafted and already signed by Toronto as a triple-overager, and highly touted Russian Yegor Zavragin as a potential target for next year’s Entry Auction. Mik registered Zavragin last August and he is trending up as a projected first-rounder for 2023.
The Battlehawks added four more prospects in the second round of this year’s Entry Auction, including German winger Julian Lutz and Russian forward Alexander Perevalov — both of whom possess significant upside. Depth shouldn’t be an issue for the Battlehawks, with a steady stream of reinforcements from their protected list and affiliated agency, which should give them a ‘next man up’ mentality to maximize their games played.
“I think we are on the right path,” Mik said. “We should have more complementary scoring coming up this season, as we hope some youngsters we added last year like Chinakhov, Reichel and Jack Drury will start contributing a bit more. We also hope Alexandre Texier, Mantha and the rest of our roster will manage to stay healthier than last season (wouldn’t take much).
“Our goaltending obviously took a hit with the loss of Bobrovsky, but we like both Casey and Adin, and there is still time to see if other opportunities may arise before the new season starts,” Mik continued in assessing the state of their roster. “We have other young goalies in the system on top of the aforementioned Hildeby and Zavragin, but they are all years away from the NHL as well.
“We think we’ve been adding good talent overall to our prospect ranks, but we didn’t make any high draft selections in our first two Entry Auctions, so we are not talking players that will make an immediate impact.
“The goal, even if we are in an extremely tough division, is to keep making the playoffs while our prospects develop. We think we have a decent chance to accomplish that again this season.”
Beauchesne is confident he is leaving the Battlehawks in good hands — even though he isn’t leaving UFFS entirely, retaining ownership of the Battlehawks’ UFAHL affiliate, the Thunderbirds. So he’ll still be following the Battlehawks closely as their biggest fan going forward.
“I enjoyed being one of the original owners in the UFHL,” said Beauchesne, who bought the Battlehawks, with Mark Scheifele as their franchise player, for $125 USD at the UFHL franchise auction in January 2020. “I received tremendous support from the UFFS team, but I’ve decided to pursue other investment opportunities at this time.
“I was fortunate to have Mik and Alessandro manage the Battlehawks the last year and a half. Both of these gentlemen were very knowledgeable, detail orientated, and did their homework when executing transactions. They have a keen eye for talent (especially European), communicated effectively, and worked with integrity.
“Mik and Alessandro and the Ifab Sports Group will be excellent owners and will be a great asset to the UFFS platform.”
The buyers believe the timing was perfect — and the price was right — with UFFS transitioning to the CUDOS blockchain in hopes of becoming more mainstream. With daily fantasy also in the works, UFFS could be about to blow up in the months to come.
“While an already well-established reality, we believe the UFHL has room to grow even more and gain more exposure,” Grignaffini said. “It’s great to be part of it, moving one of its valued franchises to Italy!
“We are confident in our group and in its ability to keep improving our team moving forward.”
As for the team behind the team — the Ifab Sports Group — that is also a great story on their origins.
“The Ifab Sports Group came together last year. Alessandro joined Mik on UFFS to manage the UFHL Battlehawks, they talked about UFFS to family members and friends, and we decided to create a group to pursue UFBA and UFLB franchises in the upcoming auctions (eventually we indeed managed to purchase the UFBA Street Spirits and the UFLB Isotopes),” Grignaffini reminisced. “Before bidding, we had to find a name for the group. We came up with an ironic mimicking of the Beatles “Fab 4” nickname, which turned into a fab5 account for basketball as we have 5 active members in UFBA, into a fab6 account for baseball as we have 6 active members in UFLB, and now into the iconic fab4 for hockey.
“Since we are all Italians living in different cities spread all over the country, we added an “I” at the beginning to represent Italy, resulting in the “Ifab Sports Group” name. Besides, in Italian “I” means “The”, so for example “I fab 4” in Italian reads like “The fab 4”, just perfect!”
The Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League mirrors the National Hockey League with 32 franchises, 50 contracts, and a full salary cap system — offering the most realistic experience to mimic owning and managing an NHL team. This is professional fantasy sports on the UFFS platform and there could be more franchises for sale this offseason. If interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org.