Diamonds and Ice


Quad City Flames hitting the road. Is he USHL next there?

Well, it’s official. The parent Calgary Flames have released the Quad City Flames from their obligation to provide Calgary an American Hockey League franchise for their players to develop in. The team is officially don after this season, which ends in April.

It’s bewildering how an area that went to nuts over the Quad City Mallards for all those years could simply ignore a higher quality product. Guys in the AHL have already played in the NHL  and are just a phone call from going back there. It’s wonderful hockey.

So now what with the Quad Cities. There has been some talk that it could get a team and join the United States Hockey League. It’s a geographic fit, for sure, though it’s hard to imagine the public down there thinking junior hockey is all the rage after failing to support an AHL team.

At any rate, here’s a story from the Quad City Times on the future of hockey in the area:

Leaders say Q-C hockey has future after Flames

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By Craig DeVrieze | Thursday, March 12, 2009 7:42 PM CDT | (

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The hockey doctor senses a pulse.

“I don’t think hockey is dead in the Quad-Cities,” said Howard Cornfield, architect of the Quad-City Mallards’ mad success from 1997 through the middle portion of this decade. “It’s injured right now.”

The American Hockey League’s Quad-City Flames will limp out of town in April, a victim of too few fans and too much expense.

Hockey attendance is at an all-time low in the Quad-Cities this season, at 2,967 a game, or barely a third of the fans who packed the building when Cornfield’s Mallards averaged 8,646 in 1997-1998.

Cornfield and others think those decade-old numbers still are proof that hockey should resurface at the i wireless Center, perhaps even in the form of another American Hockey League team.

When that should happen is subject to debate.

Scott Mullen, executive director of the iwC, wants hockey back in his building at the earliest possible juncture.

“I am a hockey guy and I want hockey in the Quad-Cities,” Mullen said Thursday from southern California, where he was on arena business. “That is one of our top priorities. We worked hard to get the AHL to come. We want hockey in the building.”

In fact, the Quad-City Civic Center Authority  invested more than $700,000 in bringing the rink and the arena up to AHL standards when Quad-Cities Sports Ventures and Calgary announced plans to bring the AHL here in the spring of 2007.

The arena’s lease with QCSV calls for the Q-C Flames ownership group to repay that money if it didn’t complete the five-year term of the lease. So lead QCSV partner Dennis Voss is anxious to find a new tenant willing to assume those final three years.

But who?

Voss said potential expansion of the International Hockey League, which formed from the remnants of the United Hockey League QCSV left behind two years ago, could include the Quad-Cities.

IHL president Paul Pickard said that’s something his league would welcome — “if there’s ownership interest.”

Cornfield, who has contacts throughout the minor league hockey world, said he knows of a couple groups looking to get into the hockey business.

But the IHL, currently a six-team league with a couple of teams in distress, isn’t an option he would recommend, he said.

Geographically, he said the AHL makes the most sense, but it might be too late at this juncture to attract the interest of any NHL teams looking for a place to move an affiliate.

NHL Edmonton has a dormant franchise. Still unannounced is which AHL franchise will move to Austin, Texas, next year as a Dallas Stars affiliate.

Another option that might be in the works is to bring a high-level junior team from the United States Hockey League.

Mullen said that might not be the best option, after having exposed Q-C fans to hockey a level shy of the NHL.

“I can’t say it would be ruled out, but a building our size would seek a higher level professional team,” he said.

Perhaps the best option, Cornfield said, is to allow the patient some time to rehabilitate.

“It is not a good time for hockey in our town right now,” he said.  “I think similar to other markets that have gone away and come back to life, this market probably has to heal for a year or two and you’ll certainly see some interest.

“The building is too good. The fan base is too good.”

Cornfield said if an AHL team decided now to play here in 2010-2011, it could spend all of next winter re-preparing the market.

“Hopefully, they open an office in September and start working their tails off selling hockey here,” he said.

The best marketing tool Cornfield and others can think of?

Wins.

At the height of their popularity, the Mallards won three Colonial Cup championships and they reached the finals six out of seven seasons.

The Flames failed to make the AHL playoffs last year and are battling for the final spot in the West Division field right now.

“I don’t know that the league matters much,” Voss said of the potential next Q-C hockey crew, “as long its a first or second-place team.”

pelech

 

 

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5 Comments so far
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Great, just great. It sounds like the people of QC are blaming Calgary for not putting a winner on the ice, and Calgary is leaving because the people of QC didn’t come to the games?

Comment by pud'nhead

This is a sad sad day. To think that the QCA may be without a hockey franchise. It’s just sad. Having grown up in Rockford my entire life one would think I’d have been drawn to the Icehogs. Instead I have been a Quad City hockey fan for as long as I can remember. It was just so much more fun to go to Mallards games than Icehogs games. They were a winner!!! Need I remind you that the Mallards still hold the record for consecutive 50-win seasons with 6? But then it started to crumble. The team started to get older and they weren’t winning as much. People didn’t come out, why? Because the team wasn’t performing. If a team doesn’t perform, should the fans still be expected to come? When has this new Flames team ever performed? I’ve been to a lot of games and have seen the team perform really well on several occasions. However, I’ve seem them squander a lot of late leads or ties and wind up losing games they should have at least pushed to overtime. There is no reason this team should be in 7th place. They have a lot of talent but for some reason, maybe this talent doesn’t work well together. Maybe Calgary’s moves aren’t always the best. I don’t know what they got for him but to trade away a Kevin Lalande and recall Matt Keetley? That was a horrible move. To keep Dan Spang in the lineup for as long as he was? Ok, now I’m just nitpicking but let’s just say, I don’t feel like the effort was made to make this team a winner. A coaching move, a big trade, something should have happened to at least show the fans that Calgary wanted this team to succeed, but it never happened. Maybe, not for sure but maybe, if they had done something to make this team more competitive, then fans would have come out. Shouldn’t it have been job number one for this season to make this team into at least a playoff team? Doesn’t seem like it was. Anyway, this really stings. I hope we get something back Quad Cities because I for one will miss having hockey here (by the way, I do live in the area now) and I can’t really see myself cheering for the IceHogs ever.

Comment by QCHockey

I’d rather watch a losing team play at a high-level of competition than watch a bunch of never-will-bes dominate the way the Mallards did.

That makes me a minority.

The majority of fans are too stupid to wrap their feeble minds around the concept of minor league sports. It isn’t about wins and losses and the local front office has no control over them (unlike the Mallards days)

There’d probably be a lot of mouth-breathers who would prefer to Kernels left town so Cedar Rapids could get some Iowa Valley action going at DATPFAVMS (That would be Dale and Thomas Popcorn Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium) so they could “root for a winner.”

As far as I’m concerned, the Quad Cities doesn’t deserve another crack at fielding high-level affiliated hockey. Much like my ex, both had no idea how good their situations were until it was too late.

Comment by Jorge Vino

Jorge, that does put you into the minority. Me as well. I will love hockey until the day I die and I will attend games and root my team on no matter what. But you’re not going to get “casual fan” in the arena without a quality product. They couldn’t even get casual fan in the gate when they were offering $5 upper bowl tix. That’s partially marketing but it’s partially product. How can you expect to get someone who is currently uninterested in the sport into the arena to watch a game when the odds are really in favor of losing? It is fun to go to games but they haven’t marketed the team well and Calgary hasn’t helped by not helping field a competitive squad. So while I do agree with you Jorge, you have to understand that the reason for this is money and there just aren’t enough people like you and me that will continue to attend despite the product quality.

Comment by QCHockey

WHY DO ALL THE CITIES THINK THAT A TEAM CAN LOSE MILLIONS A YEAR AND STILL STAY IN TOWN. YOU NED TO CRAWL BEFORE YOU WALK.

Comment by KOMET FAN




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