Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Monday, February 8, 2010

AHL-to-OKC annoucement tomorrow

You see them all the time.
A press release is called to discuss the future of something in some place at some time.

It's the end of the worst kept secret in town.

Well, tomorrow morning an announcement is expected in Oklahoma City.
They will be talking about the future of hockey in that city.

Long have been the rumors about yet another team in the Southwest.
Well, it looks like we'll get some solid information this week.

All I know is that this is going to create quite the fun trying to determine what they are going to do with division re-alignment.

There are several potential scenarios, assuming that all the current AHL cities keep hockey in their cities (and Charlotte being added to make a 30th team), and here is one of them:

Break the league up into six, five-division teams. The West would look like this, with the top eight teams making the playoffs (the way it should be done, anyway)

Houston, Texas, San Antonio, OKC and Abbotsford
Manitoba, Chicago, Milwaukee, Rockford, Peoria
West/Great Lakes
Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Toronto, Hamilton, Rochester


Fred Trask said...

I'm not sure how long the league can afford to have some of the attendance problems it is experiencing. Some of the long time cities, as well as Abbotsford, have dismal attendance.

I'd consider Abbotsford a huge failure, coming in at 21st in the league in attendance, with all the cost incurred to the league with regards to travel. There was a time when I thought I read that Abbotsford was to subsidize travel by other teams to play there, but I can't find it now. How long will Calgary be willing to foot that bill? What happens to give the Stars their franchise?

Here are the numbers for the bottom dwellers in regards to attendance, starting with Abbotsford at 21.

The League Average is 4,796

21 Abbotsford 3,865
22 Binghamton 3,736
23 Norfolk 3,688
24 Toronto 3,668
25 Rockford 3,598
26 Albany 3,517
27 Worcester 3,430
28 Springfield 3,330
29 Lowell 2,309

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Agreed on all counts, but there have been attendance problems for years.

As far as I know, everyone is staying in the league ... although, there could be many shifts in affiliations.

We'll see ... could be a very interesting summer.

Lax Guy said...

I have heard rumors that more and more older cities will be losing teams because the NHL wants the AHL affiliates closer the their teams. I cannot believe how bad some of those numbers are, but I know Rockford's attendance is down significantly just from losing Des Moines and the Quad Cities this year. QC was their main rival in the UHL and they established a great "Batttle of the Bacon" with the Chops last year.
I have a feeling the next couple of years will be really interesting regarding movements of AHL teams...

Chris Jerina said...

Lax Guy,

I have to doubt that losing Des Moines was a big hit on the Rockford attendance, when the two cities are at least 4 hours from each other by car.

QC was also 2 hrs from Rockford, so I doubt that a large contingent went between the two places either. (Though I am only guessing based on how few Wolves fans will travel an hr and 45m to Milwaukee and vice versa)

I think there, its more just that the novelty wore off of being in the AHL, combined with having a dominant team the first year, then having a rather lacklustre team last year.

Not to mention, Rockford, I believe, has the highest unemployment percentage in Illinois currently.

Forecheck said...

I know the Devils want out of Lowell - crappy rink and bad attendance and a new arena in Trenton (whether it's safe to be out in Trenton in the daylight, let alone evening, is another matter).

There are rumors all the time on the Falcon bloggers and newspaper site about the team moving somewhere - anywhere.

I guess to a deep-pockets NHL team attendance isn't that big a deal - it subsuduzes the cost of player development which is the main reason they have an AHL affiliate.

Abbotsford sticks out like a sore thumb no matter whatever division you put them in and the travel costs must be awful.

What we really need is for someone to move to Memphis, Baton Rouge (like that would work), or Sante Fe (ditto). Maybe Colorado Springs? Booming before the recession hit. Ditto for Las Vegas.

Stephen M. said...

This makes things interesting for the Texas Stars. Now that the Oilers have used their former Roadrunners franchise on this new "Oil Kings" franchise, the Stars only have the Iowa Chops left to buy a franchise from. Also there's th Falcons, but they are independently owned. They also have no affiliation. Boy, this summer is gonna be something...

Forecheck said...

Stephen -

The Falcons HAVE to have an affiliation to play in the AHL. This is why Des Moines and Cincinnati folded (both because Anaheim pulled their affiliation - lesseon learned, never affiliate with Anaheim).

Chris Jerina said...


I believe if you lose an affiliation, you can still be in the AHL, you just cannot JOIN without an affiliation. Although the odds of fielding a competitive team of AHL-only contracted players is almost non-existent.

The Chops were disbanded because the league suspended their membership, due to the knuckleheads running the team, not the fact Anaheim pulled out.

B2Bomber said...

As soon as I win multiple lotteries I'll get a ECHL franchise, build an arena, yadda, yadda, yadda. That way when the Aero's pull out we'll at least have some hockey left in town!

(Sorry, but I can't pull legs any harder.)

Forecheck said...

B2 -
We'll have to pool our resources to build a 10K seat arena in Pearland first...

Word verification "gingelun" - how one responds to a funny joke in the rural South - as in "That joke was so funny I was gingelun for five minutes!"

ICEVET said...

Starting with Fred Trask's point, attendance is demonstrably tied to geographical factors (favorable demographics, business strength, job stability) as well as hockey factors (management, marketing, affiliation, and on-ice performance). Recall the 2008-9 Calder Cup Finals featured the two top-drawing teams (Hershey-8987/ga and Manitoba (7769/ga), with game 1drawing over 15,000. Hershey is a company town (with a long Calder history) and Winnipeg a Canadian NHL wannabe, both doing the right things to sustain a loyal fan base.

Second, Technology (evolution of cable sports, Internet TV, cellphone apps, and now the iPad) have offered cheaper options for fans to follow games without attending.

Third, real disposable income levels, in decline since 2000, have impacted attendance in ALL major sports, and the gradual withdrawal of community coverage of hockey by cash-strapped local broadcast TV has only added to "fan disconnect".

However, it is a fact that hockey has (for 100 years) attracted a high concentration of fans from affluent households (v. the masses)...an October, 2009 online traffic survey (nhl, nba, nfl, mlb) found that over half of visiting puckheads had incomes of over 75K and over 35% had 6-figure incomes, outranking ALL other major sports in relative fan affluence. While NHL surveys have consistently backed this finding, the AHL has been quiet on this point.

Go Aeros!

Anonymous said...

I am still hopeful for a team to be reloacted to the vacant Des Moines Iowa franchise. I was season ticket holder #1 and attendance was about AHL average and growing. The problem was that the owners were/are crooks. I believe their secret goal was to get the franchise in Iowa and then later move it to Texas which is close to their base of operations. Anaheim was not the bad guy in dropping the affiliation. At the risk of alienating our Aeros fans, I'd love to see the Wild/Aeros here. Whenever we played a weekend game against the Aeros there would be a huge contingent of fans from Minnesota. I think that marketing would help attendance and help Wild fans see some of their minor leaguers. Any AHL affiliation would be welcome - it is a beautiful arena and a growing fan base.

Anonymous said...

As much as I like the Wild, I wouldn't mind seeing an affiliation switch here, if only to flush out some of the upper management in the front office who have proven themselves to be chronically fan unfriendly. Not to say Anaheim (or whoever) would bring in any better people but at least it's a different hill to climb.

Forecheck said...

Anonymous - The problem with your scenario is that the Wild own the Aeros. So to do an affiliate switch (which does sound desireable at times), the Aeros would have to move out and be replaced by someone else - which is not always a seamless process.

I do seem to recall though that the AHL is contractually bound to keep a franchise in Des Moines for several years to come. What happened to that or did the league just up and pay the county a penalty?

CatTrick said...

An Adirondack Post-Star tweet also mentioned that its news partner, WNYT News Channel 13, reported that the sale of the Albany River Rats to Charlotte will be announced on Wednesday.