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Record-Setting Sale in UFHL: Conacher Family Acquires Gators Franchise for $80K USD

The Ultimate Fantasy Hockey League’s flagship franchise is changing hands in a record-setting sale.

The Gators and their UFAHL affiliate Caimans have been acquired by the Conacher family — headed up by former NHL player Cory Conacher and his father Dave — from the UFFS founders for $80K USD, eclipsing the previous record of $75K USD for the Red Army and Dynasty franchise sales from July. Ironically, Red Army defeated the Gators in this year’s Klein Cup Final, while Dynasty was bought by Conacher’s former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Ryan Malone.

“We are confident that this franchise is going into good hands and a good family,” said Tony Charanduk, president and co-founder of Ultimate Franchise Fantasy Sports. “When we started the UFHL and officially launched UFFS in January 2020, the UFFS founders retained ownership of one franchise, the Gators, as a show of good faith by investing in our own project. Our intent was always to sell this franchise when the time was right. The Conacher family expressed interest in the Gators and it turned out to be a perfect fit.”

This sale is significant for the price — raising the bar again on valuations for the 32 franchises in this NHL-equivalent professional fantasy sports league — but also for welcoming another real world hockey family into the fold with UFFS. In addition to Cory, who played 203 career NHL games and still plays professionally in Switzerland, his brother Shane will be involved as a fellow pro who spent three-plus seasons between the AHL and ECHL. As will their sister Jaclyn, who played CIS women’s hockey, along with her husband Ryan Schmelzer, who is currently captaining the AHL’s top team, the Utica Comets, and will also be serving as the Gators’ general manager going forward.

This is a family venture and everyone will have their role while bonding over the entertainment value of following their franchise’s success in the UFHL.

“With Cory in Switzerland most of the year and my daughter Jaclyn living with Ryan in the U.S., this is a real opportunity to bring everyone together and share this experience. For me, this is the most important aspect,” said Dave Conacher, the patriarch. “These kids are competitive as crazy, so it will be fun for me to see how well they perform against some of the seasoned veterans and quality ownership groups in the UFHL.”

Schmelzer has aspirations of working in hockey ops following his playing career — he is only 28 years old but already planning for the future — and considers the UFHL an ideal place to practice and sharpen his skills in the most realistic and in-depth fantasy league.

“When this opportunity was presented to me, it immediately piqued my interest,” said Schmelzer, whose Comets improved to 16-1 on the season Wednesday night and are back in action tomorrow in Bridgeport, CT. Utica is Ryan’s primary focus, obviously, but taking the reins for the Gators will allow him to pursue another passion on the professional level in a unique situation as an active player. Perhaps he’ll even trade for a current teammate like Nolan Foote or Alexander Holtz at some point — worth noting, there are no New Jersey Devils’ players or prospects on the Gators’ roster as of today.

“Honestly, what’s not interesting about the UFHL? With how closely it reflects the NHL, it’s a perfect opportunity to learn the ropes of what being an NHL GM is like — something I aspire to be one day,” Schmelzer disclosed. “I’ve always played fantasy sports for fun, but taking it the next step is exciting. Not to mention with the way the world is evolving, it will be valuable to learn and understand how the blockchain and NFT technologies work. The family and I are eager to get going and have big plans for the Gators.”

Cory is busy playing, too — now a go-to guy for Bern in the NL and also representing Canada at the Spengler Cup in recent years — but he is looking forward to being hands-on with the Gators as well.

“The Gators will be an exciting project for my family and I to experience together, in hopes of creating a team and organization that will one day be very recognizable in the real world,” said Cory, who led Canada in scoring when they won the 2015 Spengler Cup and also led Tampa Bay’s affiliate to a Calder Cup championship in 2012, among his career highlights to date.

“For me, the UFHL platform is the perfect opportunity to stay passionate for the sport I love even after my playing career is over,” added Cory, who turns 32 this month. “I am excited to utilize some of the knowledge I’ve learned over the years from different GMs, coaches and hockey personnel to put together a team that will compete for many years to come.