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KC thinks it has a shot @ an NHL team

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  • KC thinks it has a shot @ an NHL team

    KC may be getting back on ice
    AHL or CHL could end up returning hockey to town
    The Kansas City Star

    Professional ice hockey, absent from Kansas City for the last three seasons, could be returning as soon as next fall.

    The only question is whether it will be in the form of the American Hockey League, which serves as the stepping stone to the National Hockey League, or the Central Hockey League, which is considered a step below the AHL in talent level.

    Executives from Global Spectrum, the company that took over management of Kemper Arena last fall, are pursuing an AHL franchise and have approached Comets owner Don Kincaid about owning the club. Meanwhile, Tom Rieger, general manager of NHL 21, the organization trying to attract an NHL franchise to Kansas City, has joined forces with CHL officials in an attempt to bring a club to either Kemper Arena or adjacent Hale Arena.

    Kemper has been without a professional hockey tenant since the Blades of the old International Hockey League folded at the end of the 2000-01 season.

    “We're pushing harder for the AHL,” said Larry Hovick, general manager of Kemper Arena and the American Royal Center. “It's a better product.”

    But Rieger said: “To our belief, the financial model of the Central Hockey League is far superior to the American Hockey League. I'm most interested in seeing hockey succeed in Kansas City at whatever level we can make it succeed. Having a Central Hockey League team makes financial sense…you can keep the prices affordable and not be at the whim of escalating expenses.

    “To a hockey fan, hockey is hockey. This is professional hockey. I have seen both (leagues). I was just in Oklahoma City a couple of weeks ago, and the quality of play in the Central Hockey League is so good the average hockey fan will enjoy a great brand of hockey.”

    Global Spectrum approached Kincaid about acquiring the Louisville, Ky., club that has been dormant since 2000-01 and purchased a few months ago by Howard Baldwin, who formerly operated the Hartford Whalers and Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL.

    Also available is the Chicago Blackhawks' top affiliate in Norfolk, Va., that is on the market. Chicago senior vice president Bob Pulford was impressed with the crowd of 17,285 that attended the Blackhawks' exhibition game against St. Louis last Sept. 27 at Kemper and said if Norfolk doesn't find an owner by March 1, the parent club will start looking on its own to relocate its AHL affiliate.

    “We'd have to go to Kansas City and see if the arena would be interested in giving us a lease,” Pulford said. “Kansas City sounds good. From a location point of view, it would be extremely interesting to us.”

    Kincaid, meanwhile, is not as pressed for time.

    “I was pleased they considered myself for this type of venture,” Kincaid said, “but I told them I've got a couple of personal things on my radar I've got to do, and it will be somewhere at the end of March before I get those things accomplished. When my calendar is a lot cleaner and clearer, when I have the ability to properly evaluate it and give it the time it needs, I'll be glad to sit down with them.”

    The AHL comprises 28 franchises heavily concentrated in the East, though it also has franchises in such cities as Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Winnipeg, Manitoba.

    The CHL has 17 teams in eight states, including franchises in Wichita; Tulsa, Okla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Indianapolis; Fort Worth, Texas; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Oklahoma City. It's possible that Topeka; Omaha, Neb.; and Des Moines, Iowa, may begin play in the CHL in the next year or two.

    Instead of playing in 18,000-seat Kemper Arena, which Rieger calls “daunting” for the CHL, he would like to explore playing in Hale Arena, which seats about 4,600 when used for basketball. Hale Arena was built with ice coils in the concrete but would require some retrofitting for hockey, including locker rooms and additional seats.

    Meanwhile, prospective new 8,000-seat arenas for Overland Park and Olathe are being proposed with bringing in minor-league hockey teams as tenants, and Rieger would like to beat them to the punch.

    “We've had discussions with arenas in the suburbs, but I haven't seen any dirt move,” Rieger said. “If there is a real arena out there, that comes into the mix if we're not committed somewhere. Suburban arenas are very interesting to us. The most important thing from my perspective is to have a successful franchise. Whatever league that might be, it's got to be successful. I think the Central Hockey League gives the best reason for success.”

    Whichever league were to move into Kemper, the 30-year-old facility would need the city to finance some upgrades, including better locker rooms and new ice-making equipment.

    “We're sitting down with the city,” Hovick said, “and they know (the arena) needs some renovations. They're listening. Wayne Cauthen, the new city manager, gets it.

    “Even though they're talking about a new arena, it hasn't started. And if we're going to build a fan base, we've got to get someone in here, hopefully next season. So we're trying to do AHL and find an anchor tenant. We could have the CHL right now, but we would prefer the AHL.”

    Interestingly, Paul McGannon, president of NHL 21, is staying out of the fray and is focusing his attention on the NHL exhibition game scheduled for Sept. 26 at Kemper Arena between Florida and Nashville while trying to attract an NHL team to move to Kansas City.

    McGannon cited Pittsburgh, Carolina and Nashville as franchises that could be available in the coming years if a new arena came to fruition in downtown Kansas City.

    “I'm not part of that ownership group,” McGannon said of Rieger's efforts. “I'm straight NHL 21 and trying to get a team to relocate here with a new arena. I don't have an interest in minor-league hockey. My personal preference is I feel we're a major league market and would support a major league product.”

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    Dream on.
    Make America Great For Once.


    • #3
      They can have this one in St. Louis for all I care.

      They woudn't even have to change the name.
      When you say to your neighbor, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night if that's alright with you," what you really mean is, "We're having a loud party on Saturday night."


      • #4
        Why would they want one?


        • #5
          Originally posted by devaskar@Feb 26 2004, 06:17 PM
          Why would they want one?
          STL envy, of course...

          "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
          Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
          -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy


          • #6
            Originally posted by 007+Feb 26 2004, 06:18 PM-->
            QUOTE(007 @ Feb 26 2004, 06:18 PM)

          • #7
            Originally posted by BurnKU+Feb 26 2004, 06:54 PM-->
            QUOTE(BurnKU @ Feb 26 2004, 06:54 PM)
            Originally posted by [email protected] 26 2004, 06:18 PM