Minnesota Wild will move their AHL affiliate, currently the Houston Aeros, to Des Moines to presumably be closer to the NHL club. Here at LCOB we find this disappointing for a few reasons because we share a special attachment, even kinship, to the Houston Aeros.
Houston, like Kansas City, is not what you would call a "hockey hotbed." What it makes up for in being three times bigger in population than the KC Metro, it loses points in location. Sure, Dallas has seen it's share of successful years with an NHL club, but cities like Atlanta, Phoenix, and at times Miami have not. Houston, like Kansas City, used to be on the shortlist of cities vying for an NHL team before we all learned how ludicrous it was to field another franchise south of the Mason-Dixon parallel, before the advent of your Seattles, Hamiltons, Winnipegs, and Torontos X 2. Who would be crazy/bold enough to buy a team from an ice-centric sport and plop them smack on the Gulf Coast. Houston, for lack of readily available research and a Gary Bettman interview, is not an NHL city. But for no reason of its own.
Like Kansas City, Houston doesn't fit the demographic. Who wants to move a team to this city, and why? How will an NHL team turn a profit in these cities? KC and Houston share these questions, as the hockey universe uses both as their troll jumping off point in regards to another American franchise. With thought out quips about the lack of hockey fans in the city, to imaginative yarns of games played before uninhabited arenas, and the lack of understanding or knowledge among the locals of the scientific properties of frozen liquid, it should be easy to see why the NHL would, and should, never consider these cities for hockey, let alone life itself. A plot so tired and passé that it takes everything in your power not to point out that the entire province of Manitoba has less inhabitants than the urban statistical area of Kansas City and that there is a good chance there are still more hockey fans in Omaha, Des Moines, Mid-Missouri, Wichita, Topeka and the entire Kansas City region combined (i.e. colloquially known as the "Chiefs Kingdom" supporting another single franchise*) than total Manitobans, for arguing with a fool makes one a fool themselves.
We share this pain, because it's easy to point out the flaws. I do it regularly. No Gretzky didn't grow up in either of these cities. They don't play pond hockey in Houston, and if they play it here no one has told me. But there is historical significance of the sport to fans in both cities. Kansas City folks enjoy their hockey, as the Mavs hope to break the tenuous presence of the sport in the city. Houston folks, obviously, enjoy their hockey. See for yourself. The Aeros rank near the top of the league in attendance, hovering around the 6,000 fan average per game mark, since 2006. Plus, the Aeros have given their fans twenty years of uninterrupted hockey, one Turner Cup, and one Calder Cup during that time. What's not to love?
Honestly, I have never met a Houston hockey fan personally, but like I said, there's a kinship between us tweener hockey cities. Houston had what Kansas City hockey fans want, and that's a consistent hockey presence in the city's sports landscape. The Outlaws didn't fill that void, mainly because no one knew they existed. And as much as I hate to admit it, the Blades struggled to do so, as well. But, the death of the Blades was like a slap in the face to those diehard hockey fans in KC. Ten years, down the drain. Just like the Scouts, just like Blues, just like all the rest. And now the Houston faithful feel, after twenty years of loyal patronage, some asshole is going to yank away a part of their identity. That's just business, baby. Twenty years is just the price of doing business in the modern sports landscape. Now the next step in the grieving process: uncertainty. What's next for Houston hockey fans?
I wanted to get whimsical and liken the loss of the Aeros to the loss of a grandparent or older acquaintance, someone you knew, and now they are gone, and that part of your family legacy goes away with it. Or something. But that's not really the point. Personally, for me, the Aeros are one of the few reminders of the existence of the Blades. Without the Blades, hockey probably is not a part of my life, or many younger generations of Kansas Citians. The Aeros, the Fort Wayne Komets, the Chicago Wolves, and the Milwaukee Admirals are all a reminders of the past hope of hockey in Kansas City. The Grand Rapids Griffins are also a reminder of that, though we won't talk about their terrible existence for obvious reasons. The Aeros bring back good memories, of simpler times, of the Cleveland LumberJacks and Phoenix Roadrunners, and how obtuse the shootout seemed way before the NHL ever thought about implementing it. Houston fans don't deserve what's going to happen to their team anymore than we did when the Blades went away.
On a side note, seriously, how great is that logo? The Aeros didn't change it except for a brief time during their transition to the AHL, but changed it back to the original mostly because the new one was dumb and unoriginal. Great logos are hard to find today, especially some that have a touch of history to them. Some that stick with a franchise forever. The winged-wheel. The Blackhawk head. Chief Wahoo. The Chiefs Arrowhead.
I know people in Iowa excited about this impending new team. Good for them. They deserve it – the whole city – because they want it. Their old team got taken away, and now they got a new one. Sunrise, sunset. Though, the new team won't be called the Des Moines Aeros. In fact, if it's called the Des Moines/Iowa Wild, I'm never setting foot in the state of Iowa again just based on their lack of creativity alone.
But don't you worry, the Aeros will return in some form or fashion, though hopefully it doesn't take fifteen years like it did the last time. Heck, a new Aeros could even join the CHL, much like the new incarnation of the Quad City Mallards, and former IHL and CHL squad the Fort Wayne Komets. If the Aeros do come to the CHL and the Mavs have another retro Blades jersey night while they are in town, I'll feel like a kid, you guys, falling in love with hockey all over again. (heavy, wistful sigh)
Until then, here's a video of the Blades' Kevin Evans and the Aeros Steve Jaques dropping the gloves from the old IHL days.
Courtesy of the Department of Redundancy department.
*Yes, I understand the difference between the NHL and NFL. Merely demonstrating a point.