With little or no warning, a disappointing season for the Quad City Mallards has become even more disappointing. Tuesday owner Jordan Melville announced the minor league hockey team will cease operations at the end of the season.
Melville says the decision was financial and personal. But the main reason was money - two years ago he noticed that revenue had leveled off. The team's annual budget is 2 1/2 million dollars and he was losing one million dollars a year.
"It was everything. We couldn't get enough people which of course translates into not enough people to get the sponsors to spend enough money on what is essentially advertising in the building. So everything's connected to everything else, and the business would have had to double in revenue to make it a viable long-term concern."
He also wants to spend more time with his family.
Coach Phil Axtell says it was a complete shock. And his goal now is to keep the Mallards focused for their final games.
"It's a game we've loved since we were a kid, and whether this team will be here next year in this league or not, there's going to be other teams and they'll be looking for jobs. How we react will be looked at under a microscope now, so moving forward the right way is crucial for all of us."
Defenseman Greg Amlong says he faced the same situation last year when his team in Elmira folded at the end of the season.
"We were told with 15-20 games left, there's not going to be a team here next year. Everyone at that point was fighting for a job next year,so we stuck together and played hard for each other so that way others could get jobs again."
Coach Axtell says he was already preparing for next season, bringing in prospective players and holding tryouts.
Melville says it's too late to sell the team, and have it ready for the new ECHL season in the fall, but the TaxSlayer Center is already getting calls from possible future team owners. And he doesn't think the Quad Cities will be without hockey for very long.
Melville became the owner in 2012.
The Mallards have 11 regular season games left, with the last one, at home, on April 7th.
In all, the closing affects 22 players and 10 staff, plus the possible indirect impact on the TaxSlayer Center and downtown Moline businesses.
The team is currently in last place in their division within the ECHL league, with 20 wins and 41 losses.
The original Mallards franchise played in the Quad Cities from 1995 to 2007. That team won three championships, in 1997, 1998, and 2001.