AHL Landscape Changing
Hartford GM Denies Team Might Move
AHL Changes Ongoing
By Gerry Cantlon
Changes abound in the world of hockey especially in the AHL that will keep it Europeans players consulting their search engines for the next destination of employment or divisional opponent.
Recently, the league announced approval for the Edmonton Oilers who reactivated their mothballed Edmonton Roadrunners franchise and locate it in Oklahoma City next season. Then the announcement that the Albany River Rats would be sold to ECHL Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Krahn and relocate the team as the NHL Carolina Hurricanes affiliate to Charlotte next season.
What would happen in Albany has been a matter of intense speculation the past two weeks since the announcement was made.
The buildings GM Bob Belber has openly expressed in Albany Times Union paper that they will a have a team next season and they were discussing this with three Northeastern AHL teams affiliated with Northeast NHL teams.
The New York Rangers were listed as a possibility including Buffalo and the N.Y. islanders. The local TV station WTEN News10 said a local car deal owner Billy Fuccillo was in the process of buying the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Sound Tigers GM Howard Saffan released a statement flatly denying this.
The Portland (ME) Pirates lease deal is up as is the New Jersey Devils lease for its Lowell (LA) Devils franchise is also expiring this season.
Hartford Wolf Pack GM Jim Schoenfeld flatly denied that on Sunday the Rangers were considering Albany or anywhere else.
‘We like Hartford, we have no desire to move anywhere. We have a lease, I thinks its pure speculation. We haven’t talked to them (Albany) or anyplace else.” remarked the 30 year professional in his 5th year the team GM.
Schoenfeld did confirm however the team has talked to Howard Baldwin, one time owner of the NHL Hartford Whalers and founder of the franchise in WHA as the New England Whalers who now resides back in Connecticut regarding his desire to maybe purchase or manage the team.
This was first reported by Rich Coppola Sports Director for WTIC-TV Fox-61 in Hartford.
“We have talked to Howard, but that’s it, just talked. No deals, no agreements or anything else. Beyond that, I can’t comment much more.” said Schoenfeld.
Baldwin and MSG both lost out on running the building the XL Center three years ago when the Connecticut Development Authority (CDA) selected the company known as Northland/AEG to run the then Hartford Civic Center now known as the XL Center. Is MSG satisfied with the way the business side of the hockey team has been run the past three seasons ?
“I’m not close enough to that given my responsibilities in New York (with the Rangers). We have a good relationship with Chuck Steedman (building GM) and AEG. I can’t really assess what they have done (marketing and promotions) that is their speciality and they run the building,” remarked Schoenfeld. “We certaintly would like to see the building filled with as many fans as possible for our players, we (MSG) don’t have a part in that any more (handling) the business side of the team.”
AEG recently had its contract to run the football stadium Rentschler Field home of the NCAA Division UConn football team cut short and the management of the Bushnell Auditorium won the bid process to run that facility.
The situation in Bridgeport continues to be fluid despite the public denials EHN has learned from several sources there are serious behind the scenes issues that could change things in Bridgeport.
A source said the present management company Centerplate, primarily a food concessions company who added the management of the facility to its portfolio 10 years ago is experiencing serious financial problems like many other companies in these economic times and is looking at possibly ending its managing portion of the deal, but no final decision has been made.
In addition, EHN learned a minor league baseball executive Charlie Dowd with deep Connecticut roots having worked with the New Haven Ravens (Eastern League), Bridgeport Bluefish (Atlantic League) and most recently the recently departed Connecticut Defenders of the Eastern League interviewed for a GM position of the hockey team recently. Whether this would be apart of a new local ownership of the Sound Tigers or possibly relocated Sound Tigers hockey team remains unclear.
The team has an 11 years remaining on its original lease signed in 2001 by the late Roy M. Boe. Boe was forced to sell the Sound Tigers because of financial difficulties 5 years ago including owing his affiliation fees to the Islanders and numerous unpaid local vendors. The AHL came very close to folding the team if the bills went unpaid. A sale to Charles Wang was made at the time.
The lease, renegotiated twice is considered among the most onerous in the league. The only out clause seems to require the Sound Tigers bring in a replacement team to assume the remainder of the lease.
The Sound Tigers PR Director was let go Saturday night, the second time a PR Director of the team has been let go late in the season onee source said, “changes, big changes are coming.”
The spring season in the AHL is more than playoff races,but could see a further reshaping of the AHL team landscape.
Story added on 23rd February 2010 at 03:45 GMT
Story submitted by: Gerry Cantlon.