Club 9 Sports CEO and Quad-City Mallards owner Jon Pritchett wants to set the record straight: The Mallards aren't going anywhere.
Pritchett responded to rumors from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and other sources Friday, admitting that although the team was late on some payments this week, it is not a cause for fans to panic.
"The only truth to anything is that we did have a cash crunch, which is not unusual when you deal with an entity that's been losing a lot of money," Pritchett said. "For a couple days, we had a payroll shortage for staff, but we rectified that. It didn't affect players or the coach or anything else.
"It was kind of a blip, and we got caught without games and other expenses. In our view, it's not a big deal. It's just the ugliness of a turnaround."
Pritchett said the Mallards got caught without enough money to meet their financial obligations after a long road trip and a span that saw the team play just one home game in 16 days.
That was a Sunday game played Jan. 22 against Fort Wayne, traditionally one of the Mallards' weaker days of the week in terms of attendance. Meanwhile, the Mallards played road games at Evansville, Missouri and Wichita during that stretch.
Upon returning to the Quad-Cities, the team did not practice Tuesday or Wednesday, intensifying speculation that the Mallards were struggling with finances.
However, Pritchett said the lack of practice was for on-ice reasons.
"Those are not related," Pritchett said. "Coach Bell had given them a couple well-deserved days off after a long trip."
Central Hockey League spokesman Bob Hoffman said that rumors spun out of control and reiterated Pritchett's position that the payment issue was not a serious one.
"Teams run through different issues throughout the season," Hoffman said. "The Mallards' ownership did a great job of problem solving, and it's not an issue.
"Did they have an issue? Yes, they did. But they solved the problem and they're committed for the longterm."
Pritchett cited the Mallards' success on the ice and improving box-office performance as reasons for optimism. Entering Friday's game, the Mallards' average attendance was 3,190, a jump of 320 fans from last season.
"Everything is back on stable footing. We're all committed to a strong finish," Pritchett said. "We think we have a playoff-caliber team, and we've seen an uptick in the sale of tickets and group tickets.
"It's a business that takes a while to turn around. We need to make sure we have enough capital, and we will make sure that we have enough for the rest of the season."