The Quad-City Mallards might be destined to join the Central Hockey League in a matter of days.
Commissioners of the CHL and International Hockey League, which the Mallards joined a year ago, confirmed discussions between the two leagues on Thursday.
IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall indicated an announcement regarding the IHL's future might be made sometime next week. That also is when CHL owners and general managers are scheduled to meet in Phoenix.
"There's talks going on," Hextall said. "Exactly what's going to happen, I think you'll hear something next week."
That information followed a radio report out of Bloomington, Ill., citing an unnamed source who said the IHL's PrairieThunder would be joining the CHL, a far-flung league that last year featured 15 teams across nine states.
Chris Lencheski, who heads the QCHT LLC group that rekindled the Mallards last year, declined comment on that report and would not discuss possible talks with a specific league.
But he did hint a big announcement was forthcoming.
"The only thing I can say is that we have been exploring opportunities in consideration to various leagues and, within the next few days, the resulting story will be one of the most positive developments in minor league hockey in 20 years," Lencheski said.
A merger with the CHL or the ECHL had been among the potential solutions for the IHL since mid-winter, when the Muskegon Lumberjacks announced they would leave the league to field a junior team next season.
That reduced the IHL roster to six Midwest-based teams - Quad-Cities, Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Dayton, Flint and Port Huron - and financially embattled Flint's future remains an open question.
Hextall did indicate efforts to secure new majority ownership for the Generals are progressing. He also said a franchise in Evansville, Ind., which hadn't been expected to play until 2011-2012, could be part of whatever the IHL becomes in the coming days.
Hextall characterized discussions with the ECHL as "chatter," while Brian McKenna, that league's commissioner, told the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Journal-Gazette any such conversation has ended.
That leaves all signs pointing to the CHL, which recently updated its website to describe itself as the Center of Hockey.
The league is a publicly held subsidiary of the Global Entertainment Corp., which suspended trading on May 3 at 20 cents a share.
Teams are individually owned and only 13 of last year's 15 remain, with two of the league's six Texas teams closing shop. There are three possible expansion additions not including the IHL teams.
The league last year had a weekly salary cap of $10,450, or roughly $2,500 less than the IHL, and it allowed four fewer veterans than the eight-vet maximum the IHL allowed.
Former Mallards coach Paul Gillis has coached the CHL's Odessa (Texas) Jackalopes the past three seasons, and won the Southern Conference last season.
The CHL is considered a lower Double-A league on par with the IHL.
"It's good hockey, competitive hockey," Gillis said of the CHL. "I don't know how the hockey has been in the IHL the last few years with only six teams, but I think the CHL is a good league and I'm sure everybody would be happy with the caliber of hockey."
The league would be the fourth to host a professional Q-C hockey team after the Triple-A American Hockey League and the IHL's Double-A forerunner, the United Hockey League/Colonial Hockey League.