Saturday, April 22, 2006
Cyclones about to fill hockey void
ECHL team coming to U.S. Bank
BY COLLEEN KANE | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
Professional hockey will return to Cincinnati next season, but not in the form that might have been expected two months ago.
Seventeen days after the Cincinnati RailRaiders announced their American Hockey League franchise would not have a 2006-07 season at Cincinnati Gardens, U.S. Bank Arena announced the return of the Cincinnati Cyclones, an East Coast Hockey League team that suspended operations after the 2003-04 season. The two announcements are directly related, said Jim Moehring, vice president of programming and business development for U.S. Bank Arena.
The RailRaiders did not play this season after undergoing an identity change when they lost their NHL affiliation with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2005. Since October, the team had been trying to secure 2,000 season-ticket deposits to ensure the team would be financially viable. When the RailRaiders reached only 80 percent of that goal by the beginning of April, the ownership group decided it would not play this coming season.
Moehring said the Cyclones would not have returned if the RailRaiders had met their goal. He also said the Cyclones organization tried to keep the possibility of their return quiet so as not to impede the RailRaiders' season-ticket campaign.
"Even though we haven't played, we always thought Cincinnati was a good hockey market. We just didn't think it was a two-team market," Moehring said. "... (After the RailRaiders' announcement), quite a few people from the (Cincinnati Area Hockey Association) and other amateur leagues around town approached us. They really feel Cincinnati needs a professional team to anchor the hockey community."
The Cyclones operated in Cincinnati as an ECHL and IHL team for 13 years before calling it quits because of attendance that dwindled to just more than 2,000 fans per game in their last season at U.S. Bank Arena. But the Nederlander Co. retained ownership of the team and kept current with ECHL policies and dues in case a return looked promising.
The Cyclones hope to have a general manager and coach in place by summer, Moehring said. They will be one of 27 teams to play next season in the ECHL, an 18-year-old minor league that's considered one step below the AHL.