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    The on-again, off-again story of the San Jose Rhinos appears to be off-again.

    The inline skating franchise began playing here in 1994 as part of Roller Hockey International and won the league championship in 1995, reprotedly making it the only San Jose pro team ever to win a title.

    But financial troubles forced RHI into hibernation in the summer of 1998.  After a yearlong retooling, the slimmed-down league was back in action last summer, and the Rhinos made it to the league semifinals in August.

    "It was fantastic, but unfortunately the league has run into problems again," says Rhinos director of operations Jon Gustafson.  "It's very much up in the air."

    Mr. Gustafson says troubles re-emerged midway through last season, when the league fired its staff and board and relocated from Denver to Anaheim.

    Messages left at RHI headquarters were not returned.  The league is trying to restructure yet again under a new name, MR. Gustafson reports.  "We don't know if we're going to participate in that yet."

    He made no secret of his disappointment with league management, saying RHI "has let us down again.  We're the only team that's been able to pull our weight."

    A co-ownership deal last year with San Jose Arena Management (aka the San Jose Sharks) helped the RHinos boost sponsorships and preserve their ticket base during the one-season hiatus.

    Rhinos co-owner Richard Shillington, who lives in Canada, did not return calls for comment by press time.

    Mr. Gustafson wouldn't speculate on the odds of the Rhinos beginning this summer's season on schedule, if at all.  But he has ruled out joining a rival pro league, Major Leage Roller Hockey, to which several RHI team defected in 1998


Source: The Business Journal