ANCHORAGE, AK — The rumor mill has been swirling for some time now but the news became official today. The Alaska Aces, members of the ECHL, will cease hockey operations effective at the end of this regular season and playoffs.
The Aces are the states only professional sports franchise and have been in operation for 14 seasons previously, which includes claiming the ECHL’s Kelly Cup a record three times (tied with South Carolina).
Terry Parks, the managing partner of the ownership group, made this statement: “This is an incredibly difficult decision, which came after months of careful consideration. We worked through every possible solution that might have avoided this outcome but it became painfully obvious to us that, in this economy, a professional hockey team is not sustainable in Alaska.”
With the loss of the California teams to the AHL the closest natural rival became the Idaho Steelheads. This greatly increased the travel costs for the Aces, hitting roughly $300,000 a year.
Parks states that as a result of the economic downturn they have seen a decrease in sponsorships, decrease in season ticket sales, and 1,500 less fans in the stands each night versus just a few seasons ago. The bottom line is the organization has lost more money this season than the previous two seasons combined.
The troubles have extended beyond the professional ranks as the state’s two major colleges mulled over the idea of shutting down their hockey programs as well. Both the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Alaska Fairbanks were able to stave off making that decision for another season but don’t be surprised if that ax comes down on them in the near future as well.
Fans that have made deposits for season tickets next year will receive a full refund.
The Aces are starting a 10-game road trip tonight as they play in Elmira, NY. Their next home game will be March 15th against the Cincinnati Cyclones. They will play their final regular-season home game at Sullivan Arena on April 8th against the Idaho Steelheads.
We’d like to take this opportunity to wish the entire Alaska Aces organization all the best in their future endeavors. Hopefully another team is able to pick them up and the Aces logo can rise from the ashes.