It has been rumored and speculated on for some time now, with our friends at T3I doing the bulk of the heavy lifting, but as with nearly all things Minnesota Wild, it isn't real until Russo says it is. This morning, the world shifted out from underneath the hockey fans in Houston, as Russo says it is all but official that the Houston Aeros will no longer be the Wild's AHL affiliate, and the organization is likely to move the affiliate to Des Moines, Iowa.
This may seem like a minor shift to some, like an earth shattering move to others. The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle.
The ownership group of the Wild, Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, own the Houston Aeros. They have been working hard to find an equitable deal with the team's home, the Toyota Center. As it turns out, the Toyota Center believes it can make more money hosting more concerts, rodeos, and, well, whatever the hell else a basketball arena in Houston can host. Those talks obviously did not come to fruition, and the team is on the move.
AHL teams move all the time, and for any number of reasons. To be closer to the big club, money, lack of fan support, to be in a bigger city with better access to airports, to not compete with their own affiliated NHL team, etc. Think of a reason, there is a likely a team that has moved for that reason.
The key points here are these:
1. This moves the affiliate out of a major airline hub, adding one more step to getting a call up to whatever city the Wild might be in when they are needed. This may get overlooked, but being in Houston, a Wild call up could get anywhere in the league in a few hours. Now, layovers will need to be managed, and time added to the process.
2. The Houston area has been a long time supporter of hockey at any number of levels. Hell, Mike Yeo was an Aero. So was Gordie Howe. This isn't something the fans in Houston could have fixed by somehow being "better fans." This isn't a sun belt issue, or and issue with Houston not being a hockey market. Some of the best hockey fans I have ever met are in Houston. If anyone wants to say differently, you can answer to me.
3. The vast majority of Wild fans know the pain of losing your team. Dancing on the grave of the Aeros (who will almost certainly return in some form down the road) is not cool. Real hockey fans are not going to be happy about this.
4. Being in Des Moines will make road trips possible for Wild fans. At 3 1/2 hours away, it is just a bit longer than heading to Duluth. This could be very exciting for Wild fans who don't mind a road trip, and could provide some fun trips for Wild season ticket holders.
5. The Aeros were the reason we got to meet people like Andrew and Heather (Ms. Conduct). We will forever be thankful to both the team, and these two fine writers for allowing us the chance to live in their world from time to time.
There are many other issues entailed with this, and we will leave that to our Aeros writers Em and Andrew, but for now, we would like to know... what are your thoughts, Wilderness? Are you OK with this? Excited? Disappointed? Somewhere in between?