The Calgary Flames are about to end a tradition in the Quad Cities: Hockey.
The Flames are attempting to end their affiliation with the Quad City Flames in Moline, IL. From the Calgary Herald, dated March 12th:
The Calgary Flames farm team in Quad Cities, Illinois is set to flicker into oblivion at the end of the season.
After months of speculation, the Flames released the Quad City ownership group Thursday from the remaining three years of their minor-league affiliate agreement with the NHL club.
On Thursday, Flames president Ken King confirmed his intention of signing a new 10-year affiliation agreement with a group of investors in Abbotsford, B.C.
So this isn’t a brand new thing, but it is a big blow for a city that has a great facility, passionate hockey fans, and a tradition of hockey since 1995 with the Quad City Mallards. The Mallards were part of the UHL in it’s heyday, before the city adopted the AHL, and the Mallards ended. Looking back, with the UHL turning into a joke league of six teams and barely staying afloat, it may have looked like a good idea at the time.
Also from the Calgary Herald:
Down in Quad Cities, with an average attendance of 2,810, the Flames rank 28th in the 29-team AHL. The local ownership estimates losses this season at US $1.3 million.
I can understand wanting to close shop with those kind of losses. The QC Mallards, in their 2005/06 season averaged 3,542 fans per game, and slipped to 3,120 per game in their final season. These seem like small numbers when we are used to NHL sized attendance, but when taken in the context of a small league with a salary cap counted in thousand per week, those were sustainable numbers. In the 2005/06 season, the Mallards ranked 4th overall in attendance (the top slot was held by the Ft. Wayne Komets, a team with a strong tradition of hockey and a gigantic arena).
The QC Flames were formerly the Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights, who left after two seasons in Nebraska for similar reasons. You can only imagine the Calgary Flames dropping hockey teams in unsuspecting towns across America, then snatching them back up, leaving the bodies of ice workers, mascots, and marketing people in their wake.
While I can understand the Calgary Flames wanting to move the team closer, and even to hockey mad Canada, the nearest AHL team is the Manitoba Moose, in Winnipeg, which Google Maps places at a 24 hour drive away. The new team will be the western-most team in the AHL by far, adding massive travel expenses.
On that note, from the Vancouver Sun, also dated March 12th:
“We’ve had substantial discussions with Abbotsford We’re in a situation where we’re completely comfortable with the terms of an arrangement “ The move to Abbotsford requires approval of the American Hockey League board of governors, and there could be resistance from teams opposed to the travel.
“I don’t know if I would term it resistance, but I think they’re going to need to be convinced because of the geography,” King said. “They’re going to need to be convinced things like travel subsidies are nailed down.”
The potential Abbotsford ownership group has agreed to pay travel subsidies to help alleviate the cost of cross-country flights for the opposition.
To put the travel in a little more context, here is a screen capture of an AHL map from OurSportsCentral:
How’s BC looking now?
If I were an AHL owner, I would be seriously concerned. A new arena, a new location, a city that built an arena without a tenant trying to land a team. I can imagine the local ownership looking to Manitoba, who is averaging 7,512 a game (second in the league), and wringing their hands. Yeah, if I were an AHL owner, I would be doing some serious due diligence.
BTW, the QC Flames were only second to last in league attendance. First would be the Lowell Devils, who bring in an average 2,160, eight hundred less than the QC Flames. If you are wondering who is next on the chopping block, keep an eye trained to Lowell. They have had their issues in the past, even though they are signed in the Tsongas Arena through 2009-10.
So thanks for the memories, QC. Pending approval, you can expect to be hockeyless next season. And you had such high hopes.
All numbers were taken from the Pointstreak archive, and www.theahl.com.