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

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Playoffs - One Last Mission

Barring an absolute disaster on the ice this weekend, the Aeros will qualify for the postseason and will host playoffs next week at the Toyota Center. Nevermind the rumors about the team having to play its playoff games in St. Paul.

But this is the post that I have dreaded writing for several months now. The dots have all lined up, the rumors aren't rumors anymore, and the Aeros are being kicked out the Toyota Center. The Wild will move the team to Des Moines and will play there as the Iowa Wild.

Here is the Russo Blog.
Here is the St. Paul Pioneer Press Story
Here is the Heather's report in the Chronicle.
Here is the Des Moines Register's version. 
Here is the Hockey Wilderness story.

Throughout all of this, the team has been unified with its messaging. They said they'd do whatever it takes to stay in Houston, and I believe they did. But a couple of weeks ago, when Mike Russo wrote on his blog that an announcement would be coming soon about the Aeros leaving, the front office continued its mantra that negotiations were still underway and in progress.

They gave that message to the Houston Press, the Houston Chronicle, KPRC Channel 2 and anyone else that asked about it.

They may very well have been true, but the team was also preparing for good-bye. Three sources (AHL media colleague, Toyota Center employee and a random Des Moines fan that probably was not a random Des Moines fan) told me off the record that it was a done deal even when it still was not a done deal. Even then, I just did feel entirely right about "breaking " the story on this blog.

I chose not to talk about those comments publicly, and I am still comfortable with my decision not to. I had no one on the record, and no one gave me the information on background. It just would not have been ethical, even though this is "just a blog ..."

After the first Russo story broke, the team started to prepare for the inevitable. One of our commenters sent us a link to the picture you see here, and the link was indeed live until after I tweeted and then purposely retracted that image.

The image was then modified without the "One Last Mission" slogan than we'll probably see going forward.

As a fan, I hate that we were officially kept in the dark for many months while the Wild and Aeros brass visited arenas in Wichita, Kansas City and Des Moines. But I think I understand the business side of sports enough to know that the organization had to make preparations in advance of being kicked out of Houston.

Had they told everyone back in February that the team was going to leave, employees would have lost interest and started looking for other jobs and groups may have shied away from doing business with the team. And it just would have been awkward for everyone from season ticket holders, to the front office ... everything.

The Wild wanted to stay folks; that was their first preference. But the Toyota Center, I believe, priced them out of the market so they could proceed with more concerts. The building needs the weekend dates because they were losing out to other venues in town that are better for concerts.

Many people still hope that hockey will return to Houston. I think it will some day, but I think it will only work when the Toyota Center folks buy a team and set up a deal kind of like the way the San Antonio Rampage and Lake Erie Monsters operate their teams. They get full control of the revenue streams, and the building gets to pick and choose the absolute best dates for concerts, NBA and then hockey.

The only other option, really, is for a multi-purpose facility being built either near Reliant Center or in one of the suburbs. The market has done well in the AHL, and I think that'd be enough to get a team back down here to Houston.

It's hard to say good-bye; this has been "my team" for 19 years and I have seen hundreds of games since the 1994 when the team took the ice in the IHL. It's kind of like losing a family member to cancer, an excruciating disease that usually kills slowly, while at times giving you hope that you can beat it.

But the Aeros were diagnosed with a Stage IV tumor late last Spring, and we've seen the process as it's played out right in front of our very eyes. Now, the Aeros are in hospice, at home and resting comfortably and just waiting for the day when the Good Lord calls them home.

As you all baseball movie buffs know, Iowa's not heaven ... but it's pretty darn close.


Anonymous said...

The concert motive is a smoke screen.
check the toyota center for current events.
between now and mid august there are 8 events scheduled.
you can't tell me the real factor is revenge.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the Cynthia Woods Pavallion Schedule there are about 30 events scheduled through August. Some concerts as large as John Mayer, pit-bull, Maroon 5, and Mumford &Sons. The missed concerts theory is bogus. The concerts dont want to deal with the Toyota Center is why they dont go there, not available days.

OldFan said...

Heaven? I've been there and I certainly don't think that's an accurate description. Wonder if the team will ever see crowds like they played in front of here in Houston. I wish them well and I hope the people of Des Moines will take good care of them and support them well. I also hope this comes back to bite Les Alexander where it hurts...in his pocketbook.

B2 said...

Agreed. Let's see how many more concerts come to the TC....I bet not. They'll probably see a lot more wrestling, fighting, and mixed martial art events that won't bring in much more revenue than hockey.

Anonymous said...

I will make an effort to never attend anything the Toyota Center again, and I will never willingly support anything with the Rockets, including the new sports station they are trying to steal more money from the fans.

John Royal said...

I'm calling bullshit on the Toyota Center concert excuse. They've found ways to handle this in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, D.C., Cleveland, Milwaukee, Boston, Denver, and so on and so on and so on.

Then again, I'm assuming the people in all of those arenas aren't as incompetent as the folks running Toyota Center.

Anonymous said...

This is already hurting Les.
The events he is losing to other venues will not be able to be recouped.
Talk about reverse publicity.
I know hockey fans and this is going to hit his arena in the pocketbook. I can practically guarantee every single aeros fan will never spend a nickel in that facility.
and by the way really appreciate and will miss deeply all the time and effort everyone put into the third intermission

T.J. said...

John Royal,

In fairness, of the situations you mentioned:
- The operators behind the major arenas in LA*, D.C., New York, Denver, and Toronto all have at least some stake in their major tenants. New York, LA, and D.C., are private developments that received little to no tax money.

(* = The only exception is the Clippers, who are owned by the notorious Donald Sterling. Although I'm ignoring indoor lacrosse and soccer, as well as Arena football)

- Chicago, Dallas, and Boston are markets with split NHL/NBA ownership. Chicago and Boston are Original Six markets with entrenched NBA teams. At the time the AAC was built, it's not insane to believe that the Stars were the hotter commodity in town. Even then, splitting revenue with the Mavericks puts them at a disadvantage.

- Miami has two arenas; the Panthers play closer to Ft. Lauderdale.

- Cleveland's AHL team shares ownership with the Cavaliers.

Only two markets have NBA and AHL teams that share a facility but not common ownership. The Bucks do not operate the Bradley Center; rather, the state of Wisconsin set up a non-profit corporation that controls the arena. I assume the Bucks get first dibs on the calendar, but they don't pocket profits from renting the place.

Charlotte is another story. They are a tenant of the Bobcats, but their facility only seats ~14,000 for hockey. They aren't getting better than the AHL any time soon.

I'm not saying it makes what Les did right, but there are no comparables. Hopefully HCHSA has learned their lesson and the next time tax payers fork over nine figures for another millionaire owner, they at least try to keep that owner under control.

Anonymous said...

Hockey is forever done in Toyota Center. We'll see how long it takes before a new arena is built. Since nothing is even on the drawing boards, my guess is we'll be without hockey at least 5 years. Hope I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

how many people do you think will buy the line from tad brown that they "negotiated and diligently in good faith".
please don't insult my intelligence

John Royal said...

I'm still calling bullshit on the concerts. The music guys at the Press said Les had a point, but then couldn't mention a single huge concert that bypassed Houston because of no arena availability.

Anonymous said...

to John:

Greed feeds on itself. Les is looking not only at events not being staged in Houston but events held at other venues in the city.
That's the impression I have of the man.
Remember he was a former stocks and options trader which is pretty much as ruthless and bottom of the barrel as you can get.

Anonymous said...

What about the spurs and rampage do they play in the same arena? Do the spurs own the panthers?

Anonymous said...

The Rampage is owned by Spurs Sport an Entertainment, I think.

Anonymous said...

FYI: Tad Brown, Les's top minion: tadb@rocketball.com You didn't find it here.

Anonymous said...

The Wild had made the decision pretty much at the end of last season to move, and wanted to sneak out of town quietly. The fan base is what kept pulling the fact of them moving out into the daylight. If the Wild had really wanted to stay and gone public, they could have use the fan base and media to their advantage to force the Rockets to be reasonable. Ultimately, the taxpayers own the facility and his lease does stipulate that the rent for the Aeros be fair and reasonable compared to minor league teams.

Anonymous said...


Take a look at the concerts going to the Cynthia Woods Pavilian, there are some big names and it has nothing to do with Arena availablity.


AerosFanScrewedAgain said...

Place blame where you will probably truth be told it was a mutual agreement to split ways and everyone is happy except us fans left with no hockey. The only way I see hockey anytime soon in Houston is for an NHL team to be purchased by Les. So off to Cedar Park a couple times per season and so long to what I considered the best thing about Houston. The Houston Aeros.

Anonymous said...

In all due respect, until someone furnishes cold facts I'll find it impossible to believe that the decision to move was mutually agreed upon in good harmony.
The Aeros were already paying a premium price to begin with.
How much more does a 70 year old billionaire need?
Like someone mentioned earlier it'll be a catch-22 if a nhl franchise however doubtful is awarded to houston while the current landlord is in tc.
as much as I love hockey the disgust for alexander overrides that.

Anonymous said...

NHL in Houston is completely out of the question as long as Les Alexander is in town. His Rockets can only survive as long as they have absolutely no competition. Especially an NHL team. When the WHA Aeros competed with the Rockets in the 1970's, it was the Aeros that outdrew the Rockets. If Les is scared an AHL team is going to take business away from him, wonder what he thinks if an NHL team shows up. Of course, Houston city leaders gave him control of the only arena in town, so that will never happen.

Anonymous said...

Sugar Land Skaters?


John Royal said...

A) Like I'm driving out to Sugar Land to see this version of hockey. B) SLICE? Really? That dump?

Anonymous said...

Sugar Land team, NAHL or NA3HL? If it's NA3HL, they need to put several local kids on the team. Grow the sport here.

As far as SLICE goes, haven't been there in 10 years (my local rink is Space City Ice Station in Clear Lake). Has it really gone downhill that fast?

Anonymous said...

I love hockey as much or more so than the next person however I doubt I can drive from the east side of Houston to Sugarland for this version.
Hopefully someone will come up with a centralized location so I can enjoy hockey once more before I expire.

Ms. Conduct said...

Yes, it's NA3HL, according to the SLICE general manager.

They try hard at SLICE but yeah, it has some dumpy qualities. It's worse in the summer when parents drop their spawn off and they shred the place like jackals unsupervised all day.

Anonymous said...

We will be there Sunday cheering on our aeros and when there done we are done with anything to do or happens at the Toyota center. I'm glad I bought all our aeros goodies when we could. Just to try and count 20 + tshirts, a couple of jackets, hats, mugs, flags, doll, pucks, poster, stickers, cow bells and thats not even mentioning season tickets in the rowdy and fun cow bell section. Let's see compare that to the other sports teams in this city and I could count all of it games and goodies on maybe 2 hands. At least now we won't have to eat that nasty overpriced food and drink there overpriced wine and beers. We are done. Any concerts will be seen at different places not there. You greedy jerk. The only thing that rocked there was our aeros.