The conflicting stories about why the ECHL’s Kelly Cup remains in Loveland, Colorado, continued today when the ECHL released a statement that the Colorado Eagles didn’t honor the “tradition of returning the championship trophy to the league” and that an arrangement had been made for the Eagles to return the Cup in December that “was not fulfilled.”
The Eagles won the Cup in 2017 and 2018 but ascended to the American Hockey League last summer. Commissioner emeritus Patrick J. Kelly, for whom the trophy is named, revealed Friday morning to the “Morning Blitz” radio show on Fox 1230 in Toledo, Ohio, that a new Cup had to be created for this year’s champion (either the Walleye or Newfoundland Growlers). It’s the fourth Kelly Cup, with older models at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
A statement later in the day from Eagles owner Martin Lind read that numerous attempts had been made to return the Cup and that the ECHL “had chosen to ignore our requests.”
So what’s this juvenile war of words really about? League insiders knew this for months, but I’ll throw it out there after multiple sources contacted me over the last 30 hours: There had been a dispute between the Eagles and the ECHL over whether/how much the Eagles should have to pay for leaving the league, since there is usually a substantial departure fee. One can debate whether they should have had to pay such a fee for moving to the AHL, especially since there’s been such restructuring of hockey at the NHL’s behest; everyone knew the Eagles had been angling for the move to become the Colorado Avalanche in the AHL for years; and the Eagles were one of the former Central Hockey League teams that joined the league and their presence in the ECHL was a positive one. Without seeing the fine print, it’s tough to know who’s wrong or right on those points.
So, like most things, this bickering over the Cup is likely about money. It’s the only thing that makes sense at this point.
Personally, no matter what the reason, I think the sides should be having a lot more fun with this whole thing. If I were the Eagles, I’d be sending out photos of it from around Loveland. But the ECHL’s handling of this from a public-relations standpoint has been much better, if you ask me, because the funniest part of the whole thing was the Eagles’ non-sensical statement.
The ECHL said it would still welcome the return of the Cup in the Eagles’ possession.