For at least the near term, the future of the Quad City Mallard is brighter than it was just a week ago.|
The Central Hockey League announced last Thursday that it had extended for another year its lease agreement with the i wireless Center and introduced a minor-league front-office veteran Bob McNamara as the new president for the Mallards.
Scott Mullen, executive director of the Moline venue which has played a big role in keeping the Q-C Mallards skating, was clearly relieved by the moves which will help buy time to attract new owners for a franchise that has seen too many of them come and go without fulfilling the promises they made.
"Starting to plan for next season the season before is something that's never happened before in my entire time here,'' Mr. Mullen said last week. "We've been living year-to-year and rebuilding every year. Now we don't have to start all over again. Now we're moving forward with certainty. It makes everyone's job easier, and not just in attracting future ownership."
And it's not just hockey fans who should be glad of the news. It's hard to quantify the direct impact the Mallards have on the Quad-Cities both in quality of life and in dollars. But, financially at least, it might help to gauge it based on what would be lost if the i wireless Center suddenly went dark for those winter home games.
Joe Taylor, president and CEO of the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, put it this way in a Tuesday email: "How important are 15,000-plus meals to downtown Moline restaurants? With 33 home games and even a conservative estimate of 500 Mallards fans grabbing something to eat and drink before or after a game, that's a lot of revenue for restaurants and tips to wait staff to use to pay their bills. Quad-Cities needs more winter product and the Mallards fit the 'bill' -- no pun intended!"
For those reasons and more, we're grateful that a Mallards squad will be skating here at least until 2014. The CVB chief is among those who like the franchise's chances for longer-term success. "I am more than cautiously optimistic -- I am optimistic the flock will be nesting in the Quad Cities," Mr. Taylor said. "The Mallards have consistently overcome challenges and that is building a stronger organization off the ice, a stronger team on the ice, and more loyal fans in the seats."
He's right. It's also wise to remember that the CHL is the fifth management group for the team in the past five years. It would be a mistake to think that this latest news means that the Mallards have miraculously been rescued.
The Q-C doesn't need a miracle on ice. What this franchise needs is energetic, creative, committed and wise management led by an owner who makes promises he or she can keep. That seems more possible now than it did a week ago.
"We're not going to just jump at the first person who expresses interest," Mr. Mullen said. "We've been forced to do that in the past, but I've never had the chance to shop it around. We've been out of business and saved at the last minute. Now we'll get a better caliber of ownership candidate.''
Experienced management committed to providing better hockey and increasing ticket sales will only make the product more appealing. So we hope will the return to the ice of the professionals in the National Hockey League, which is expected to come as early as Jan. 19. If pro fans return for a short, exciting sprint to the Stanely Cup, the buzz could well benefit teams like the Mallards.
One thing we know for sure is that the last thing we need is another fire sale. The Mallards stand a better chance of finding a true savior when their search isn't conducted out of desperation and they have a product worth selling.
That alone is worth celebrating.
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