LOVELAND, CO – The metal shards have not even been cleaned out of their engraving on the Kelly Cup and already the prospects of the Colorado Eagles moving to the American Hockey League are growing increasingly louder.
The possibility of such a move was first reported by Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater last month and this afternoon, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post reported that the Eagles are at least in the opening stages of discussions with the Colorado Avalanche about a possible move to the American Hockey League.
“When you’re talking with the NHL and especially the Avalanche, which has done so much for the good of hockey in the state of Colorado, I don’t want to step out of line.” Eagles President and General Manager Chris Stewart Said. “We’re very respectful of the Avalanche and what they’ve done for hockey, and the Eagles, as hockey continues to grow in this state.”
This move, should it happen, seems reminiscent of the Eagles’ move to the ECHL after the 2011 season, after years of being a perennial Central Hockey League championship contender. The Eagles have had 431 sellouts in their 14 years of existence and have won three league championships (2 CHL, 1 ECHL) in their history.
According to Chambers’ report, the move could happen as early as the 2018-19 season. Stewart told Chambers that there is a chance a move could come later because of needed building renovations:
“I don’t believe that the AHL would accept the building as it sits today,” Stewart said of the 5,279-seat Budweiser events center. “I’m not just talking about seats. The facility in general, the locker rooms, I do think there would have to be some mitigation done to the building to help facilitate an American Hockey League franchise if we went in that direction.”
Another headwind the Eagles organization would need to face head on is the attendance. This past season, the Eagles finished eighth in the ECHL with an average attendance of 4,751 per game, or close to 90% of their capacity, 5,289 seats. The 4,751 average attendance in Colorado was roughly 500 seats above the ECHL average of 4,252 per game.
By comparison, Hershey led the American Hockey League with an average of 9,309 per game, while the overall average attendance to an AHL game was 5,823.
These numbers make it clear that Colorado will have some work to do, should a move to the American Hockey League come to fruition in the years ahead.
Logistically, the move makes sense, with their parent club, the Colorado Avalanche, just a short jaunt down Interstate 25.
The Sin Bin has reached out to the ECHL and others for comment on this story. It will be updated as new information becomes available.