MOLINE, Ill. – After a very tumultuous season through all phases of the organization, Quad City Mallards owner Jordan Melville said Tuesday morning the team will cease operations at the end of the season, casting a significant cloud of doubt on the future of hockey in the Quad Cities.
“I love the sport, I love everything about it but at some point, the passion for me has been lost,” Melville told Bobby Metcalf of the Quad-City Times. “Not because of the market, not because of the team, not because of the league, just because of the way life worked out.
“There’s no guarantees in business, just as there’s no guarantees in sports. Sometimes you just have to give up.”
Melville took over ownership of the Mallards in 2013, purchasing the team from the Central Hockey League, whose owners had run the club for a year. During his time in the owner’s box, the Mallards made the playoffs four straight seasons, but are headed for their worst finish in franchise history.
In December, the Mallards announced a three-year extension to remain in the ECHL, but had made little progress on a new lease agreement with TaxSlayer Center. More recently, a meeting to give season-ticket holders an update on progress was canceled by the team. Further, a close associate of Melville’s, Darryl Porter, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Porter had been working closely with the team since general manager Bob McNamara‘s firing earlier this year.
“We appreciated everything Jordan did and the commitment he made here,” TaxSlayer Center executive director Scott Mullen said. “They’ve been great partners and we wish them all the best.”
Mullen said the arena will continue to pursue options for hockey in the near future. To get out of their extension with the ECHL, Melville will have to pay the league $250,000 to break that agreement, according to reporting done by Bobby Metcalf of the Quad-City Times.
A possibility is the Southern Professional Hockey League, but according to Melville, he would owe the league another quarter-million dollars to flip from the ECHL to the SPHL.
Another possibility that was kicked around was for the Mallards to go dark for a couple of years, then come back as members of the ECHL. Outgoing ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna shot that idea down:
“We don’t have provisions where you can simply take a year or two off, maintain your membership and come back at some point in the future at an indefinite date and operate,” McKenna told Metcalf. “You’re either in the league as a full member in good standing or not.”
The Mallards have five games left before turning the lights out one last time. They will host Toledo for the first of a two-game set beginning tomorrow night at TaxSlayer Center, then will head out on the road for the rest of the month, before coming home to finish their run with three home games.
“The fans shouldn’t notice anything different except for the end of a season,” Melville said. “We’ll play our game and at the end of that game we’ll start packing up like we usually would at the end of the season but we just don’t unpack again. We’ll make sure we leave the town with our heads held high.”