Monday, June 06, 2005


AHL: Oilers Farm Squad Suspends Operations

According to a TSN news release, the Edmonton Oilers will be suspending operations for their AHL affiliate, the Edmonton Road Runners, for the 2005-2006 season.

The Road Runners were third overall in total and average attendance, attracting 354,151 fans for 40 home dates at an average of 8,853 per game. But the Oilers' ongoing pursuit of a Western Hockey League franchise - seen as a better fit when the NHL lockout ends - has been well-documented.

If the Oilers were expecting the NHL to return next season, this move *could* make sense since Edmonton is not likely to support an AHL club when the NHL is back in action.

Still, it's a puzzling move given the strong attendance and the need to develop prospects on their own terms. (Rather than farming them out to other AHL teams). The WHL is not going to give Edmonton a CHL team to start the 2005-06 season, either, so I'm hoping someone from Edmonton may be able to fill me in better on this puzzling situation

Is this purely financially motivated? The Oilers AHL franchise in Toronto couldn't make their lease payments to the RICOH Centre. Perhaps the AHL arm of the Oilers is in the financial red once again?


I am from Edmonton. It seems to me that this decision was based more on the fact that the Edmonton Investors Group felt that Edmonton wouldn't show support to two professional hockey teams. We simply don't have the population base to do it. The reason the Roadrunners drew well (good numbers, but if you went to the actual games, you would have noticed many who purchased tickets didn't show up) was because of the lockout. If/when the Oilers return to action, it would be a tough sell.

The Roadrunners weren't disbanded for a lack of funds (for this past year anyways). They sold something like 6000 season tickets, and were able to generate between 1 to 3 million dollar profit. That is excellent in minor-professional sports.

Thanks for the insight. If there was no NHL hockey in Edmonton next year (or anywhere), what would people do for hockey entertainment?

The worst thing is that the Oilers don't appear to have a Plan B. Their prospects will have to be loaned to any AHL club that would allow them a spot or the Oilers wouldn't have any control over their prospect development.
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