The Komets want to play in the IHL again next season, though it remains unclear whether that six-team league will survive beyond this month.
If the IHL does fold – a possibility that rests primarily on new ownership being found for the Flint Generals – the Komets would not end up in the higher-level American Hockey League.
Citing the high costs of owning a team in the AHL, plus the changing business model of that league, Komets president Michael Franke said the AHL is not a possibility.
If youre asking if theres any chance we are going to the American Hockey League, the answer to that question is no, Franke said Thursday, less than a week after the Komets won a third consecutive Turner Cup.
The IHL had seven teams this season, but Muskegon is leaving for the junior-level United States Hockey League. Flint, which made the finals, must find new ownership willing to field a team in the same arena as a new junior team in the North American Hockey League.
The Generals have been checked out by prospective new owners Ron Geary, a Kentucky businessman slated to own an IHL franchise in Evansville in 2011-12, and former Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins coach Dave Lewis.
Franke, head of the IHLs Board of Governors, said if the Generals arent bought, perhaps the IHL could pull through with an expansion team.
The key thing that Ive tried to express since the beginning is that we need six cities with six strong ownership groups, Franke said.
Thats what weve tried to talk about as a board since the Muskegon announcement. (Expansion is possible) as long as its a decent city, with an opportunity to work, and most importantly, with a double underline under this, a strong ownership group.
The IHL has seen several ownership changes, but no teams have folded since it was reincarnated in 2007 as a Midwest league geared toward keeping operation and travel costs low.
Our No. 1 goal is to keep the IHL intact and be able to slowly grow the league as, hopefully, economic conditions improve, Franke said. We believe our model is solid. Our success as an organization, if you look at it from that standpoint, has not been greater than since we joined the IHL.
Our attendance and success on the ice, obviously, its worked out well for us. But we need it to work out well for everyone.
The Komets, whose average attendance of 7,825 was the fourth largest in minor league hockey this season, could try to move to the NHL-affiliated ECHL or the Central Hockey League if the IHL folds. Franke declined to discuss a possible change in leagues.
If the Komets join the AHL, which is one step below the NHL, it would be akin to the Komets stint in the old IHL (1952-99). A move to the AHL would increase salaries, travel costs and ticket prices, and the Frankes would lose control over many personnel decisions.
Thats assuming there is an available affiliation with an NHL team that wouldnt mind farming it out to local ownership.
The American Hockey League, under their current state of business operations, is not a possibility for Fort Wayne, Franke said. As time goes on now, there are more and more National Hockey League teams that are owning their American Hockey League cities.
Over a period of time, thats where its all heading in the American Hockey League.