Last Friday, there was a report on KTVA in Alaska that the Alaska Aces of the ECHL were going to fold after the season.
“The ownership group has been wrestling for quite some time with what our future holds, just due to the economic situation in Alaska,” co-owner Jerry Mackie told the Alaska Dispatch News. “As soon as we have made a decision, we’ll release something, and the announcement will come from the ownership group and not from some anonymous source.”
Nearly a week later, the owners went on the record: The Aces are folding after this season after 14 years, ending a run for the franchise that dates back to 1989. All of their players become free agents this summer. It’s over.
From the team:
BREAKING: The Alaska Aces will cease operations at the end of the 2016/17 season. pic.twitter.com/aUjom3uMO6
— Alaska Aces (@AlaskaAces) February 23, 2017
The Aces said the decision stemmed from mounting financial losses triggered by plunging attendance, dwindling corporate sponsorships and Alaska’s recession-wracked economy. “It’s probably one of the toughest business decisions I’ve ever had to make,” said Terry Parks, managing member of a five-man local ownership group.
Parks said the Aces lost more than $1 million in 2016 and are projecting losses at the same pace this year. Those losses are split among five owners from the original group that in 2002 bought the franchise — formerly the Anchorage Aces — out of bankruptcy for about $1 million and quickly turned it into a perennial power on the ice and at the box office.
Many of those costs were due to travel, as there aren’t exactly close geographic rivals to Alaska.
The ECHL has granted the Aces permission to “go dark” as Mackie puts it, meaning the Aces will not play next year. As for the future, Mackie says, “there are other cities in the United States that want to have a team, and many of those are new expansion cities or cities that have had teams in the past. We will explore if there is opportunity to sell the team somewhere else but the thought of not having the Alaska Aces in Alaska anymore is really, really hard for us to come to grips with and we feel really bad about that.”
The Aces were a staple in the community, and had a collection of dedicated fans. They were the Anchorage Aces from 1989 through 2003, and then became the Alaska Aces. They played in the Pacific Northwest Hockey League, the West Coast Hockey League and then the ECHL. They were home to Alaska’s favorite hockey son, Scott Gomez (above), who played there twice during his career.
Fare thee well to the Aces. Hopefully it’s not too long before pro hockey returns to Alaska. They’ve got great fans there.
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