After months of speculation, rumors and stories about the American Hockey League coming to OKC. Yesterday, the AHL made it official that the league will be joining forces with the Edmonton Oilers to move their AHL affiliate which is the Springfield Falcons which are based in Springfield, Mass. Starting next season.
Even though the Oilers and their affiliates are not doing so well right now, this is about promoting hockey back in OKC after the Oklahoma City Blazers were pretty successful in the CHL where they were among the leaders in all of minor league hockey in attendance and being an imporant part of promoting the sport in the South in the late 80s and early 90s.
Unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, all of their teams that are a part of have been struggling this season. Currently the Edmonton Oilers have been sitting in the Western Conference Basement this season.
In addition, the current affiliate in the Springfield Falcons has been last in the Atlantic Division all year and only the Binghamton Senators who are a part of the Ottawa Senators have a worst record. Also, the Edmonton Oil Kings who the ownership have a minority stake in the team are dead last in the WHL's Eastern Conference this season.
The team that is yet to be named will be playing at the Cox Convention Center as that arena has been getting worked on to expand and renovate to get it ready to host ice hockey again after being nearly unused for the last couple of years. There decided not to play at the much larger Ford Center so they can have as little interference with the NBA team the Oklahoma City Thunder when it comes down to scheduling and getting fans to their games
Here's the Press Release from the Edmonton Oilers website.
The Edmonton Oilers announced today that the American Hockey League Board of Gov. has approved the relocation of the Oilers inactive AHL Franchise from Edmonton, Alberta via Springfield, Mass. to Oklahoma City starting in the 2010-2011 hockey season that will start in early October.
Oklahoma City will become the home of the Oilers primary affiliate, the proving ground for the team's top draft picks and prospects. In Operation since 1936, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 30 NHL teams. More then 84% of the NHL players have spent some time in the American Hockey League, and more then 6.5 million fans per season have attended AHL Games across North America since 2001. The Oilers have been owners in the American Hockey League since 1982.
"We are thrilled with today's announcement," said Kevin Lowe, Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations. "The Oilers have felt for some time that Oklahoma City was the right fit for our AHL Franchise. There is a rich hockey history and tradition in Oklahoma City and we anticipate this partnership to be very successful."
The yet to be named team will begin play at the newly renovated Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City in early October. Renovations such as state of the art scoreboard and sound systems, will be complimentented by other improvements such as, terrace suites, exc. lounge areas, new locker rooms and new workout areas.
"This announcement is the culmination of hard work from all the groups in this process," said Prodigal Hockey LLC owner Robert Funk Jr. "As a group, we're pleased to be teaming up with a franchise with the history and passionate fan base of the Edmonton Oilers. We look forward to providing OKC with outstanding entrainment center as well as world class hockey.
"I am proud to welcome Oklahoma City to the American Hockey League as we look ahead to our historic 75th season of play in the 2010-2011 season," said AHL President and CEO David Andrews. "Oklahoma City has a rich hockey history and terrific fan base, and will be an excellent fit with our 29 member cities across the U.S.A. and Canada fans in Oklahoma City can look forward to seeing intense competition, strong rivalries and the best young players in the world as they prepare for careers in the NHL.
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