Thursday, April 18, 2013
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.
Instigated by Andrew J. Ferraro at 9:25 AM