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Komets foe Quad City suspending operations

This defection no one saw coming.

Quad City’s name hadn’t come up when talk turned to cities looking to bail on the CHL, but now the Mallards have become the second confirmed dropout in what may or may not be a summer of flight for the league.

According to the Quad City Times, a four-paragraph statement released Wednesday afternoon announced that the team was suspending operations, less than a year after Canadian clothing magnate Eric Karls bought the club.

“We’ve worked extremely hard to make the Mallards a successful franchise, but in our current position we felt this was the proper decision given the uncertainty of the landscape of the industry,” team president Chris Presson was quoted in the statement.

The Mallards join Odessa (Texas), which earlier announced it was leaving the CHL for junior hockey, as teams that won’t be back next season. But unexpected though it was, Quad City’s folding won’t affect at least one other CHL team: the Fort Wayne Komets.

“This was a big surprise,” Komets president Michael Franke said Wednesday. “It was a big surprise to the entire league. But it doesn’t change (the Komets’ commitment). It’s not pleasant, but it does not change that at all.

“We’re still committed to this concept and to this league. I think everybody realizes there are going to be less teams in the league this year than last season. That’s going to be the way it is. The silver lining in that, for us right now, is we’re not sitting here worrying about going from seven (teams) to six or six to five.”

The dark cloud, on the other hand, is that the Mallards apparently couldn’t reconcile low attendance – they averaged a Quad City-low 2,870 fans per game this season – with the increased travel costs that have simply become a fact of life in minor-league hockey. An object lesson, perhaps, for everyone who’s left.

“It’s disappointing. It is. Quad City was the marquee franchise of minor league hockey 10 years ago,” Franke says. “But geographically, travel now is just part of this business. Wherever we are right now, wherever we’ll be in the future, travel will always be part of the economic impact. That’s just how it is.”

bensmith@jg.net

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