The city of Omaha, Nebraska could find itself on fire as early as next
season. That is, if you believe the rumors circulating around the
American Hockey League this week.
While no official announcement has been made, sources within the Omaha
Hockey community are confirming to the Associated Press that Omaha is one of three places that
the NHL’s Western Conference Champion Calgary Flames are considering as
their primary minor league affiliate. The AP reports that according to Flames President and
CEO Ken King, there has been no agreement with the Metropolitan
Entertainment and Convention Authority, the managing party of Omaha’s
Civic Auditorium, the likely home of an affiliate, although King has
said that an announcement will be made in the next week concerning
an AHL affiliate for the Flames for the 2005-06 season.
The Calgary franchise has been without a primary American Hockey League
affiliate since the 2002-03 season, when the Flames placed their then
AHL affiliate Saint John Flames in dormancy for several reasons, including significant losses in revenue. For the last two
seasons, the Flames have been sharing an affiliate with the Carolina
Hurricanes in Lowell, Massachusetts. An agreement reached between the two organizations allowed
the Flames to place ten skaters and one goaltender with the Lowell Lock
Since then, the
Calgary Flames have been actively searching for a city to host their affiliate once again. It appears the club is in the initial stages of reaching an
agreement with Omaha, who already have a connection to the Flames
organization. The Flames, originally based in Atlanta, used the Omaha
Knights as their CHL affiliate. It seems some 30 years later, the
Calgary Flames are willing to give Omaha another go.
There are many questions surrounding whether or not Omaha would be a
suitable base for an American Hockey League franchise, however, including whether or not the area could sustain
another hockey franchise alongside the USHL’s Omaha
Lancers and the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s Division I hockey
club. The city boasts a population of over 400,000.
The choice of Omaha seems like a simple one for the Calgary Flames. Omaha is closer to the club’s ECHL affiliate Las Vegas Wranglers, and much closer to Calgary then their current affiliate in
Lowell, which significantly impacts travel costs for the Flames
franchise. Players being shuttled between the AHL and the National
Hockey League would be done much more efficiently and cost effectively,
something that the Calgary Flames are certainly paying attention to. As
a Canadian club which has had a struggle with finances in the past,
every dollar counts.
What counts even more for the Flames franchise, though, is the ability
to develop their own players. With control over their minor league
affiliate, the Flames will be able to better dictate the running of the
organization, right down to naming the head coach. With sole control
over their affiliate, the Calgary Flames will be better able to
introduce their program and expectations to their youngsters.
Possibly the biggest bonus the organization would see in once again having their
own affiliate would be their ability to bring over more of
their European prospects, and acclimatize them to the
North American style of hockey and culture as well. With
an affiliate to play on, the likes of Andrei Medvedev, Tim Ramholt,
Andrei Taratukhin and Jonas Frogren could all find themselves joining Carsen Germyn, Brent Krahn, Richie Regehr and Brennan
Evans, already playing in the AHL. That is, if General Manager Darryl Sutter can get them all under
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