Red and Black Hockey
by David Lee on 06/02/09 at 02:54 PM ET
There’s something that’s gotten lost in the shuffle of all the Hurricanes “big” issues this summer. People have pretty much assumed that Carolina will offer a head coaching contract to Paul Maurice, removing the “interim” from his title. It’s not in stone yet, but it’s a safe bet. There’s some contention about which of the free agents should be re-signed and which should be allowed to walk. I’ll go in depth about each of those at some point before July 1. So far, nobody’s talking about the expired contract with Albany.
Carolina has used the Albany River Rats as its AHL team for the last three seasons. In 2006-07, they shared the team with the Colorado Avalanche. For the last two seasons, it has been all Carolina. That contract expired at the end of the 2008-09 season. I haven’t heard anything about whether they will renew that association or if the Hurricanes will look elsewhere. Say, Iowa…
The Rats weren’t a very good hockey team this season, and they were really bad at the box office. While the league average was 5115 fans per game, the Rats only had an average of 3539. They didn’t qualify for the playoffs. The previous two seasons, they were a middle of the pack hockey team, but were near the bottom of the league in average attendance. They did make the playoffs each of the two previous seasons, but suffered at the playoff box office as well.
For the 2008 playoffs, the Rats averaged a pathetic 1852 fans per game (15th out of 16 teams) compared to the league average of 4233. The Manitoba Moose averaged 7665 per playoff game. The story was pretty much the same in the 2007 playoffs.
The Rats won the Calder Cup in 1995 as the top farm team of the New Jersey Devils. They enjoyed success on the ice and at the box office throughout the nineties. Things turned south, though, and they missed the playoffs for six straight seasons starting in 2001. I don’t have attendance stats going back that far, but I’ve heard that the box office started to suffer. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that a winning team sells tickets easier than a losing one. And the Rats were BAD for six years straight. Really bad. Look at their standings point totals. 2001—70 points. 2002—52 points. 2003—68 points. 2004—62 points. 2005 (NHL lockout)—71 points. 2006—57 points.
It’s possible that Albanians gave up on the Rats during that stretch of really bad seasons. Maybe they’ve started to spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere. In this respect, things might get even more difficult this coming fall when Glens Falls, NY will be the new home of the Flyers AHL affiliate.
There are probably a few other contracts that expire this summer, but the only one I’m certain of is the Iowa Chops, who were the top affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. The Iowa team had been affiliated with the Dallas Stars before that. Last season, the Chops turned a lot of heads around the sports world with their silly name, their pig theme, and the silly contract that they offered to Brett Favre.
Although it would be a geographic nightmare, this seems like the Iowa Chops would be a good match for the Canes. At least from a marketing standpoint. The Canes already have a hog for a mascot. So do the Chops. The existing color scheme for the Chops is pretty similar to that of the Canes. For the record, Iowa is the leading pork producing state in the US, and North Carolina is second. Which sort of explains all the piggy business.
In reality, I’m a huge proponent of keeping things more geographically convenient. In an ideal world, there would be an AHL team here in Greensboro or in Charlotte for the Hurricanes. Well, we tried that in Greensboro, and it was an epic failure. Scratch that.
Anyway, the AHL affiliation is an issue that Carolina is going to have to deal with this summer. I’m not that crazy about the team being in Albany, so I’d like to see a change. Iowa is just a silly idea.
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About Red and Black Hockey
David Lee is a restaurant manager with an unused degree in political science. He can be found at Carolina Hurricanes games, Scrabble tournaments and indie-rock shows. Sometimes, all in the same day.