After yet another offseason of ownership questions, i wireless Center executive director Scott Mullen

wasn’t ready to let the Quad-City Mallards disappear.

Neither was Central Hockey League commissioner Duane Lewis, even though the Mallards have been part of the league for only two years.

On Tuesday, their work culminated in an unusual agreement that ensures the life of the Mallards for at least one more season.

For the first time in its history, the CHL will take over one of its clubs, agreeing to fund and operate the Mallards for the 2012-13 season until a buyer can be found.

Lewis confirmed that the league is prepared to operate the team for the entire season if no buyer is found and will step aside if a suitable buyer comes forward.

“We fully believe in the market,” Lewis said. “We certainly wouldn’t be in this position if we did not. We haven’t been in this position before, but with the past history and proud history the Mallards have, we want to get it back up to the level it was at.”

According to a statement released Tuesday evening by previous owners Club 9 Sports, the group wanted to return for a second season in the Quad-Cities, but sustained “a large financial loss” and decided it could not continue without new capital or new investors. The statement also said that when new money did not come, the club faced the prospect of having to shut down the team before the CHL found an unnamed buyer, to whom Club 9 Sports sold its entire stake in the Mallards on Sept. 2.

“At the request of the league office, we remained silent so that the new owner could decide how and when to announce the ownership change,” the statement said. “However, despite having executed a purchase agreement, signed players, hired a team president, paid for player insurance, arranged housing and managed the club for a period of six weeks, the new owner abandoned the club at the last minute and became completely unresponsive to all parties. This unprecedented event has put all parties associated with the Mallards in a very difficult position.

“Over the weekend, it was decided that the best course of action was to allow the CHL to take over the club on an interim basis until a new, long-term solution could be found.”

The decision allows the Mallards and the league to take their time in finding a buyer. Since the departure of the Quad-City Flames, the Mallards have changed hands from Chris Lencheski to Eric Karls to Jon Pritchett and John Prutch of Club 9 Sports, with each taking over a few months before the next season.

Mullen and Mallards executive vice president Ryan Simmons both said that forced the team to accept the best deal it could from a new owner, rather than being able to select a good fit for the Mallards.

With the league backing the team, both are confident the right owner can be found.

“At this point, this is the best thing that could have happened to the organization,” Simmons said. “With the league taking over the team, the funding is stable and secure. We have an opportunity now to take our time and go through a true vetting process, not scramble for six or eight weeks like has happened time after time.

“(We can) be selective about which ownership group is brought in. We don’t have to take the first ownership prospect that comes sniffing around. We can say, ‘Is this guy the right fit for us?’ I think that puts us in a pretty good position.”

The first changes for the Mallards will come in the form of assistance from Mullen’s staff at the Moline arena. Throughout the offseason, the Mallards’ staff has consisted of two people — Simmons and director of communications Brian Lavelle.

Mullen and the i wireless Center plan to assist the Mallards in corporate sales, game operations and other aspects of running events until the team is able to hire enough people for a full staff.

“I’ll put my staff up against any staff,” Mullen said. “We know what we’re doing, so we’re going to help them any way we can so they can get back on their feet. Before, when the Mallards had their staff, we focused on our events only. We’re all going to chip in and make sure the Mallards can handle the volume coming their way. Ryan and Brian can’t do it alone.”

On the ice, Mallards coach Terry Ruskowski now has the ability to bring in players with the assurance that the team will play a full season.

Ruskowski does not yet have his full team on the ice, but with the league backing the team, he’s at least able to fully focus on hockey with the team’s season starting Friday night at Tulsa.

The first home game is Saturday night against Wichita.

“It was a long time coming,” Ruskowski said. “We got the word (Monday) night that this was going to happen, and it was good because I really feel good for the players. They’re the guys that sacrificed a lot to come here knowing that it could not go. They still hung in there and waited the storm out.”

Mallards alternate captain Jason Kostadine said that through the drama in the front office, the players have kept their focus on the ice.

“If you focus on what’s going on outside the rink, you’ll drive yourself crazy,” Kostadine said. “We have no control over what goes on outside the ice, so it was pointless to worry about it.”

(6) comments

braddaman1

It is very upsetting that a responsible ownership group can not purchase the Mallards. If we give up supporting the team we will have no team. I think it is unfair to indicate that this is the players fault. We did have a great bunch of players last year including the league MVP. I don't understand the motivation for calling fan not to support the team. Attendance was up last year. Poor management is the problem, not the fans or the players.

Cartwright42

Please just pull the plug on the life support system and let this continuing string of lawsuits and deadbeat owners finally end here. The once storied fan base has been destroyed other than a few diehards, from years of drama. Close the doors and be done with it.

watchdog76

Are they seriously comparing an NHL-owned franchise in a major city to this lowly organization being owned by a even more lowly league? FANS, do NOT support this team - they continue to bring in new people with the same regurgitated "vision" of what this team should be able to do when those days are gone, never to be relived again. If you spend your hard-earned money on tickets to this low-level brand of hockey, then you are as silly as the people who think they can make this operation work. You will NOT be appreciated, you will NOT see good hockey, and you will NOT feel good about yourself next year, when all of this happens again. This 5-year saga is an embarrassment to the Quad Cities, the building and the fans.

CGE
CGE

Reading between the lines... No one is interested in $400k of debt for a failing hockey team over the past 6 years. They need someone to really turn this around.

CGE
CGE

Not a lot of information in this story but glad to hear there is a team and it doesn't sound like it will affect them playing hockey this year.

sikofit

So what does this mean? Did the sale fall through? What the eff is going on here?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.