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

 

 



Quad City Flames could be extinguished

A story in the Quad City Times this weekend said the future of the Quad City Flames of the Triple-A-level American Hockey League is in serious doubt.

The two-year-old franchise has incurred debt of about $2.6 million. The club ranks 28th out of 29 clubs in the AHL in attendance (2,810 per game), which is amazing considering the popularity of the preceding Quad City Mallards, which was a vastly inferior level of minor-league hockey.

Owners of the QC Flames said they have not made a final decision as of yet and are looking for an investor to help them out. Abbotsford, British Columbia apparently has been courting the parent Calgary Flames to move the team there, though that move might not be OKed by the AHL because of its geographic footprint (i.e., there are no West Coast teams).

Been to about six or seven QC Flames games this season and four or five last year. The iWireless Center is a great facility and the hockey is fantastic. The prices aren’t too bad, either. It’d be a shame to see the team go away.

http://www.qctimes.com/articles/2009/02/22/sports/hockey/doc499e30690bdc4409174887.txt

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