MOLINE, Ill. – The dust has begun to settle after the announcement last week that professional hockey is staying in the Quad Cities. Local owners have stepped up to bring a Southern Professional Hockey League franchise into the Illinois-Iowa area where the Mississippi River flows east to west, and they only have a short time to build a team from the ground up. One of the owners, John Dawson, was kind enough to meet after a day at his full-time job to discuss the announcement and future news for the as-of-yet unnamed team.
The Sin Bin: How did the idea of you and Mr. [Ryan] Mosley becoming the owners come about?
John Dawson: Well, as soon as they announced there wasn’t going to be any hockey – I’ve always kind of had a dream of owning a hockey team – I never really knew what it would take to do that. So I started making some phone calls, and getting some ideas on the economics, and then I started calling some friends that I knew were passionate about hockey and seeing if they wanted to get together and do something to keep hockey in the Quad Cities. So Ryan was the one guy who from the beginning to the end stuck with me, and we decided that we wanted to keep hockey in the Quad Cities, and we had what it took to do that.
TSB: How long was the deal in the works? How close to the announcement that the Mallards were leaving did you start?
JD: The day after they announced that, I started making phone calls. I’m surprised we actually got it put together that fast.
TSB: When did you approach the SPHL about joining that league?
JD: Probably within a few days, one of the phone calls I made was to the league office to do a little research on what it would take to get a team in the SPHL. For a while, people have been talking about the cost of the ECHL and how a lot of teams weren’t making money, and as I started doing my research, I figured out that was correct. So the two leagues that I looked at that point were USHL and SPHL, and USHL were higher startup costs and maintenance, and the SPHL teams kind of fit into what I thought we could do. And you know I have friends who have worked for the Mallards and other teams, so I had a little bit of an idea of revenue and things like that. So that kind of fit into the financial model better, and then it was about well what do we really need, and it just kind of fit in that that was a good league for us. Having Peoria right down the road would give us an immediate rival. Concerns, of course, were travel; so how many times would we have to go to Pensacola, so those were things we had to factor in.
TSB: How involved in running the team will you and Mr. Mosley be?
JD: Well the goal is to hire a good general manager and coach, and as the ownership group, try to help facilitate things, you know – what do you need to be successful – or resources, and leverage the people that we know in the community to bring business to the hockey team? The goal is not to micromanage and run it ourselves, because that’s probably not a good idea – we need a professional, and we want it to be a professional team.
TSB: What names are you kicking around for GM and head coach? Do you have any names in mind?
JD: We have a couple people we’re looking at; I can’t really say because a couple of them might be local or somewhere else and I would never want their boss to see something. But we do have some leads and people that we’re talking to, so we’re hoping to be able to in the next couple of weeks to have a general manager if possible. So that’s our immediate need. We do have some staff already in place that are working hard, and the coach – that’s kind of a fun one for me. Get to ask him what kind of team would you put together, is it fast, is it tough, things like that, and that’s a very interesting process for me.
TSB: Do you plan on having the GM and head coach be the same person or splitting the responsibilities?
JD: One of the things we realized first off was the GM needs to be concentrating on business, and if they concentrate on business, and the coach concentrates on hockey, we think we can be successful.
TSB: When do you expect the announcement of the coach and GM to happen?
JD: Well I would love for it to have happened yesterday. So hopefully within a few weeks; especially the GM because we need somebody in place. But as soon as we can find a quality candidate that will uphold the values that we feel are important for our organization, then we will make an offer, hopefully hire that individual, and be able to announce that.
TSB: So how soon after the GM position is filled do you think the expansion draft will take place?
JD: That’s a very good question. I’m digging into that right now, and I have a feeling that that’s going to happen sooner rather than later. And we will find a way to try to make some intelligent decisions if we don’t have those people in place. But I think the league is going to determine when that happens, not when we hire people.
TSB: Is the ownership group going to be involved in the community in other ways than just owning the team?
JD: I would hope so. Part of being a community team is getting out in the community, so you’ll see myself and Ryan at various events and different things, and as we can participate we will. We both have full-time jobs, so we might not be able to do everything, but we definitely want to help as much as possible and show appreciation to the people who buy tickets.
TSB: Do you have any names in mind, any names that you’ve been kicking around that you hope someone suggests in the contest?
JD: Honestly, no. There’s been a lot of great submissions; we’re putting all that stuff together. We have a few ideas, but right now I’m not sure when all that’s going to happen. The priority is the GM, but we do think that individual can help us create a brand and help us pick the right stuff. Doesn’t mean we won’t change our mind tomorrow and say “Hey, this is what it is,” but right now we’re putting all the information together. I believe Wednesday was the last day for submissions, and we’ll start getting together and seeing what all that stuff is.
TSB: How do you and Mr. Mosley plan on juggling the responsibilities of the full-time jobs with the ownership?
JD: Having a GM. So that’s really what’s going to happen. We need a professional in place who can run the team, and then we’re more of the advisors and making sure it’s going in a direction that we like.
Dawson also said that season ticket information would be released within the next week, with those having put down the deposit before the 2017-18 season ended having the first claim to seats. Roughly 23 out of 28 home games will be played on a Friday or Saturday, with the other games most likely falling on Sundays because of the low attendance on Wednesdays in prior years.
The SPHL league meetings will take place in mid-June, and both Mosley and Dawson will be attending. The SPHL teams released their protected lists on Wednesday, showing what players will be available for the expansion draft when it occurs. The clock is ticking until Opening Night 2018 for the SPHL and the Quad City team.
Stay tuned to TheSinBin.net for all the latest news about the Quad City SPHL team! Follow @SinBinMallards on twitter as well; the account will update names once the team has announced its name.