In what comes as no surprise to fans, the Edmonton Oilers have chosen not to renew their AHL affiliation agreement with the Oklahoma City Barons. The Oklahoma City Barons have also chosen to close up shop following the 2014-2015 season.
After five seasons of farm play not only will Edmonton pass on keeping their AHL team in Oklahoma City, but local team owner and manager, Prodigal LLC., has elected to end hockey in this city after the 14-15 season.
A quick primer on how we got here.
The Edmonton Oilers own the rights to their AHL team. That means they can move them from town to town or place to place assuming their contractual obligations with the local team have been terminated or expired. This is a good thing for NHL teams because they can review their situations in short bursts, and have “rule” over their minor league clubs for the most part. On the Oklahoma City end of things, Prodigal LLC, owned by Bob Funk Jr., owns the team name, crest, logos, and also the managerial responsibilities. They also are positioned to earn a lot of money IF their team is successfully drawing crowds, selling gear, etc. With that knowledge in front of us, a couple of thoughts.
Following the 2014-2015 season it is highly likely that the AHL version of the Oilers moves Westward. It has been rumored for two seasons that NHL franchises geographically located in the West would want to move their affiliated franchises that direction. It makes sense for a lot of reasons, but ticket sales is one of them. The other reason seemingly revolves around ownership models that streamline movement of players from one league to another. This seems to be where the prospect-driven role of development comes into the narrative for the Oilers. They want prospects close, treated well, farmed properly, and probably under the watchful eye of Katz. This makes sense.
For the Oklahoma City Barons, Prodgial LLC will retain the rights on the team until their license expires. Is high level hockey officially over in Oklahoma City? Not an easy question to answer. The merging of the CHL and ECHL this offseason (a team resides in Tulsa) means that opportunities are littered across the country for ECHL expansion. Having an Allen, Wichita, OKC, Tulsa ECHL South sounds pleasant (Although personally, I’m not sure how I feel about tickets selling for ECHL better than AHL. Then again, new ownership could do some nice things. That conversation is forthcoming). Prodigal LLC will continue to highlits Energy FC (which began USLPro play this summer), bull riding, and other events pertaining to their market.
The going thought is that Prodigal LLC is wanting to be out of the hockey business. As evidenced by their “business model” talk. That’s sad, but also perhaps the dawning of a new day for hockey in Oklahoma City.
My personal thoughts on this matter aren’t entirely rosy, as you could imagine. Over the next three days we will share our thoughts – personal and professional – about the folding of an organization, and what the future of OKC hockey looks like.
Thanks for five seasons Edmonton Oilers and Oklahoma City Barons!