Oklahoma City Council Approves AHL Franchise

Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009 01:44PM

oklahoma

Patrick Laforge has been making noises this past week about putting an AHL franchise in Oklahoma City, something that the local papers jumped on after the CHL’s Blazers ceased operations to make room for an AHL club. Today, the possibility of Oilers’ prospects playing in Oklahoma is one step closer to reality.

From the Associated Press:

The council on Tuesday unanimously authorized a lease agreement between the city and a group that would operate a prospective AHL franchise. The deal would bring professional hockey to the Cox Convention Center beginning in the 2010-2011 season.

CanWest has had the odd report on this situation >since March, but back in November NewsOK reported that the Oilers were considering the city.

When those first reports came out, I wrote an article here at OilersNation detailing some of the pros and cons of moving the farm team to Oklahoma. The full article has more details, but here’s the basic list of pros and cons:

Pros - Oklahoma City...

  • is closer to Edmonton than Springfield is
  • is closer to the Oilers’ ECHL team in Stockton than Springfield is
  • has a newer, bigger, arena than Springfield does
  • has an CHL franchise that consistently draws better than 6000 fans per game and has led the Central Hockey League in attendance for 16 straight years; Springfield struggles to get 4000 fans a game (although admittedly the on-ice product being lousy probably has something to do with that)

Cons

  • *crickets*

The recent expressions of interest by Laforge make for a fun contrast to what he was saying back in November:

"That's a long way off, and as the team's chief executive officer, it's my responsibility to look at all of our options. Who knows what the world may bring by then? But we are very happy with what is happening in Springfield."

More interesting was this quote from Robert Funk Jr., the head of Express Sports – the company that owned the Blazers and is set to form a partnership with the Oilers to run their AHL franchise. From the Republican article linked above:

"There is no basis to that story," said Robert Funk Jr. Funk said if a new pro hockey team were to come to Oklahoma City, Blazers management would almost certainly be involved. "Part of our mandate with the city is to look for a higher level of franchise, from the AHL level or even, someday, with an NHL team," Funk said. "There is no viability for it at this time, and I don't expect it in the (foreseeable) future."

In any case, the Oilers will almost certainly move their AHL franchise to Oklahoma City for 2010-11 after providing two seasons of low quality teams to the fans in Springfield, as well as whatever they see on the ice this season. This is a good decision for the Oilers, but I do feel for the fans in Springfield: they’ve consistently supported a lousy AHL team stocked by sad-sack NHL franchises – Phoenix, Tampa Bay, and now Edmonton. Hopefully they get another affiliation; even more hopefully it will be with a team that believes a winning tradition throughout its farm system develops players more likely to win in the NHL.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Downright Fierce
July 07 2009, 01:53PM
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~Wow, good for OKC. Now they have an NHL farm team and an NBA farm team.

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#2 MattL
July 07 2009, 02:00PM
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Dear Lord, they have a cricket problem there? Pull the plug!

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#3 jeanshorts
July 07 2009, 02:08PM
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MattL wrote:

Dear Lord, they have a cricket problem there? Pull the plug!

hahahahahaha. Ah man. Yes.

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#4 Chris.
July 07 2009, 02:22PM
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Great news. It's critical to the longterm health of the franchise to have a strong farm team. I wonder how much draft potential has been lost over the years thanks to a poor development mechanism.

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#5 Penner's 2nd Chin
July 07 2009, 02:28PM
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Hahahah @ Matt. Well played.

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#6 sittingatmydesk
July 07 2009, 02:42PM
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@ MattL:Dear Lord, they have a cricket problem there? Pull the plug!

AWESOME!!!!

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#7 DaveS
July 07 2009, 02:46PM
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Why not bring the farm team back to Edmonton? They'll need someone to play in Rexall once the new arena is built. Wouldn't the farm team be a perfect fit? We could call the the Oily's!

I really enjoyed going to Roadrunners games back in the day, as it gave us a good look at future oiler greats like Jani Rita, Mike Biashi and Kyle Brodziak, at a reasonable price.

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#8 Wanye Gretz
July 07 2009, 03:00PM
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MattL wrote:

Dear Lord, they have a cricket problem there? Pull the plug!

That's rich.

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#9 MattN
July 07 2009, 03:02PM
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DaveS wrote:

Why not bring the farm team back to Edmonton?

Oilers and Oil Kings dont want to compete with another team. You will notice the only year that the RoadRunners were here was during the lockout and previous to the WHL franchise.

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#10 Wanye Gretz
July 07 2009, 03:05PM
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DaveS wrote:

I really enjoyed going to Roadrunners games back in the day, as it gave us a good look at future oiler greats like Jani Rita, Mike Biashi and Kyle Brodziak, at a reasonable price.

$0 is too high a price to watch Jani Rita or Mike Biashi play hockey.

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#11 I'm a Scientist!
July 07 2009, 03:09PM
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Ahh, Oklahoma... where the corn is as high as an Eberle's eye...

*wonders who will get the reference*

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#12 Downright Fierce
July 07 2009, 03:36PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

*wonders who will get the reference*

Don't hold your breath. We're 11 comments in and not a single person has LOL'd at my hilarious NBA reference.

Of course MattL is getting big laughs with that terribly broad crickets joke.

Damn uncultured swine.

(Do I really need to add the tilde?)

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#13 Stall35
July 07 2009, 03:36PM
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"Oklahoma Crickets"...I like it...when are the jerseys on sale?

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#14 jayoilfan
July 07 2009, 03:36PM
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Its where the corn is as high as an elephants eye...Eberle is a mighty small person.

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#15 jayoilfan
July 07 2009, 03:38PM
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wait we're discussing NBA teams now, first NLL then NBA what is ON coming to!!!!

I soooo need the next season to start soon, only 4 months to go!

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#16 I'm a Scientist!
July 07 2009, 03:38PM
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@ jayoilfan: *slow clap*...

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#17 Jim Roepcke
July 07 2009, 03:45PM
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Do the Oilers own the Springfield franchise? I thought they only owned their dormant franchise. How would they move the Falcons if they don't own them?

I always assumed they would place their dormant AHL franchise (the old Toronto/Edmonton Roadrunners) in OK City, not the Falcons.

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#18 The Towel Boy
July 07 2009, 03:46PM
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Is Heatley here yet?

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#19 ronaldo
July 07 2009, 03:46PM
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@jayoilfan So you're saying you don't want to hear my MLS take?

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#20 Susie
July 07 2009, 03:48PM
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does anyone know when the 2009 - 2010 NHL schedule come out?

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#21 jeanshorts
July 07 2009, 03:52PM
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@ Jim Roepcke:

You've had your website for 10 years? Are you the original blogger or what? That's a crazy milestone.

And I don't know if it's physically moving the Falcons out of Springfield. I think it's just conning someone into opening up an AHL franchise in Oklahoma, and the moving all the Oiler farm hands to play in that barn instead.

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#22 MattL
July 07 2009, 03:52PM
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Downright Fierce wrote:

NBA farm team.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Better? Personally, I can't even remember who has an NBA team and who doesn't anymore, it flew right over my head. Upon further inspection, though, fairly amusing.

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#23 Bob Cob
July 07 2009, 03:58PM
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@ Downright Fierce: The Thunder are to the NBA what you are to being, as you a call it, "Hilarious!"

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#24 jayoilfan
July 07 2009, 04:01PM
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@ronaldo actually I'd be very interested in your take on the MLS, as I know nothing about Socc..er ah, football. I want to know more but I have very little time to get into other sports.

I have no problem with people discussing other sports here, as for NLL I am actually a Roughneck fan so I really can't comment much about what the Rush does. TFC interests me and I catch bits of games here and there but not enough to get into it.

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#25 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 04:01PM
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@ Downright Fierce:

Does the NBA really count as culture?

Really?

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#26 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 04:06PM
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Jim Roepcke wrote:

Do the Oilers own the Springfield franchise? I thought they only owned their dormant franchise. How would they move the Falcons if they don’t own them? I always assumed they would place their dormant AHL franchise (the old Toronto/Edmonton Roadrunners) in OK City, not the Falcons.

That's correct, Jim. The Oilers would reactivate the RoadRunners and move their players there, leaving Springfield without an NHL affiliation.

The complicating factor is Dallas. Dallas wants their farm club to play in Texas, and there have been rumors they plan to lease the Oilers AHL franchise for 2009-10 to do it for one year, at least.

When the Oilers get their franchise back (assuming the rumours are true), Dallas should be the only team without an AHL affiliation. They will, however, be committed to Texas, and Springfield - a franchise on the brink of ruin for a good half-decade now - could very well be the only available AHL franchise.

In other words, it's entirely possible that once the Oilers abandon their affiliation with Springfield, the Falcons will be unable to find another NHL partner, leaving the owners the ugly option of having to prop up a money-losing team or sell it and see it moved out of town.

Obviously, most of this is conjecture on my part, but the fact remains that with Edmonton gone, their is a strong chance the Falcons will not remain in Springfield.

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#27 ronaldo
July 07 2009, 04:12PM
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@jayoilfan I'm flattered by your mistaken notion that my moniker represents my acceditation as an expert in the the world of soccer/ football. I must confess I actually fell into this name half by accident and have been reluctant to change it and thus become a "newby" in the ON world again. Also, it sort of sounds cool. :)

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#28 I'm a Scientist!
July 07 2009, 04:21PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

The Oilers would reactivate the RoadRunners and move their players there, leaving Springfield without an NHL affiliation.

Couldn't Jim Basille try something similar with Hamilton and Phoenix?

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#29 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 04:22PM
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@ I'm a Scientist!:

Only if he owns a dormant NHL franchise.

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#30 DonDon
July 07 2009, 04:25PM
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jayoilfan wrote:

I soooo need the next season to start soon, only 4 months to go!

Don't be in too much of a hurry. So far the Oil has replaced its goaltender. Going to arbitration with Greb. In the meantime, Tambellini is sitting on his rearend waiting for Heatley, and that is it apparently for free agency! Too many contracts that can't be moved and tight up against the cap. No first line centre. No big, tough players with grit and hard to play against. No faceoff artist for PK. At this point, every team in the NW Division has just got better. Playoffs? What playoffs? Is it just me that feels this way?

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#31 OvenChicken8
July 07 2009, 04:40PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ I’m a Scientist!: Only if he owns a dormant NHL franchise.

You mean like the Islanders right ;)

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#32 patty
July 07 2009, 04:41PM
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@ DonDon: yawn. Sadly, you're not the only one that feels this way. How did Colorado get better exactly?

Every day is groundhog day.

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#33 vern
July 07 2009, 04:42PM
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The oil replced their goalie with very good goalie. grebs will be signed. If hetly does come here Horcoff will be a good fit on the first line. He wins draws and cn help with the defensive side of things

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#34 Lofty
July 07 2009, 04:58PM
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I'm a Scientist! wrote:

Ahh, Oklahoma… where the corn is as high as an Eberle’s eye… *wonders who will get the reference*

They dont grow corn, its cows and hawgs as far as you can see. Now if we could get a little Hawg in Penner's game things would be different. WOO PIG SUIE!

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#35 Lofty
July 07 2009, 05:01PM
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vern wrote:

He wins draws

?????

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#36 Lofty
July 07 2009, 05:04PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Does the NBA really count as culture

You know what they say about basketball... Thank goodness for it, otherwise there would be a lot of 6'6'' janitors walking around.

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#37 The Menace
July 07 2009, 05:19PM
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@ Lofty: That's really funny. I'm going to use that one.

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#38 Jonathan Willis
July 07 2009, 06:06PM
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Lofty wrote:

You know what they say about basketball… Thank goodness for it, otherwise there would be a lot of 6′6” janitors walking around.

Indeed. I've seen what can happen with just one 6'6" janitor.

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#39 Word
July 07 2009, 06:37PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

DaveS wrote: I really enjoyed going to Roadrunners games back in the day, as it gave us a good look at future oiler greats like Jani Rita, Mike Biashi and Kyle Brodziak, at a reasonable price. $0 is too high a price to watch Jani Rita or Mike Biashi play hockey.

Are you kidding??? Mike Bishai throwing muffins from inside the Atlanta bench after Aubin tossed him in was epic.

hxxp://www.hockeyfights.com/fights/6251

Hell, it was enough to make Ty Conklin act cool.

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#40 Samwise
July 07 2009, 06:46PM
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So even if Oklahoma city is closer to Edmonton than Springfield, what are we looking at for flight times to actually get a player here after he's been officially called up? No direct flights, from what I recall...

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#41 Archaeologuy
July 07 2009, 06:49PM
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Wanye Gretz wrote:

$0 is too high a price to watch Jani Rita or Mike Biashi play hockey.

Its ok guys, Rita is just a late bloomer.

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#42 kingsblade
July 07 2009, 07:05PM
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Word wrote:

Are you kidding??? Mike Bishai throwing muffins from inside the Atlanta bench after Aubin tossed him in was epic.

Could not agree more.

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#43 mowzie
July 07 2009, 07:35PM
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wow, How long have been asleep for? the oilers are being moved to oklahoma to join a cricket league??? this makes sense after drafting troy hesketh I suppose. will heatley waive his nmc to play cricket in oklahoma? gregor?

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#44 Scott
July 07 2009, 07:44PM
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This has been the Talk of the media here in OKC for the last week. And the majority of the fans are waiting for the official words to come down from the home office there in Edmonton. I have been telling people that this would be happening, since this post by this website back on Nov 25. Though it won't be in the Ford Center, it will be in the renovated Cox Center. So the team will get the choice dates, and there will be less empty seats. I might just have to hold Wayne to his word. "Rock on Scott - if the Falcons do move there, consider yourself our official correspondant."

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#45 Lofty
July 07 2009, 08:55PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Indeed. I’ve seen what can happen with just one 6′6″ janitor.

Here's another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH1ujxNwrkA

or I also remember when Jason Kidd was drafted by Dallas 94' and he said he was going to turn the franchise around 360 degrees.

No wonder why these guys dont want to go and play NCAA ball.

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#46 humantorch
July 08 2009, 01:52AM
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Chris. wrote:

Great news. It’s critical to the longterm health of the franchise to have a strong farm team. I wonder how much draft potential has been lost over the years thanks to a poor development mechanism.

If only the Oilers' management team felt the same way.

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