There will be a lot to look forward to this weekend for longtime fans of the Quad-City Mallards.
Howard Cornfield, the architect of the Mallards' three Colonial Cup-winning teams, will be honored Friday by the team he made the benchmark of minor league hockey with its streak of 50-win seasons and sellout crowds.
Players from those teams, and the ones after, will be back on the ice at iWireless Center, some for the first time since they left. Players like Fredrick Nasvall and Ryan Black — whose overtime heroics helped the Mallards win consecutive Colonial Cups in 1997 and 1998 — will be back, along with players like Mark McFarlane, Kerry Toporowski and Steve Gibson, whose names hang in the rafters of the building formerly known as The Mark of the Quad-Cities.
But with all the festivities that will highlight the Mallards' celebration of their 20th season, there is one thing that will be noticeably missing — the Colonial Cup. You know, the one the Mallards won three times in their first six years as a franchise.
The cup itself was hard enough to find. Mallards team president Bob McNamara did some digging, and thanks to the input of Cornfield, found out it's at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, but you wouldn't know it with a cursory glance.
It's not listed on the hall of fame's website as a historic or non-NHL trophy — which includes the International Hockey League's Joseph Turner Cup and the AVCO World Trophy, which Mallards head coach Terry Ruskowski raised back when the Houston Aeros were the champions of the World Hockey Association in 1975.
The Mallards did their diligence and inquired about getting the Cup here for the weekend, but ultimately decided against it.
Price was the biggest issue. According to McNamara, the cost of bringing the Colonial Cup to the Quad-Cities would be the same as when the team brought the Stanley Cup here last season.
"It was just cost-prohibitive," McNamara said. "We reached out to the Hall of Fame on a couple of occasions and got pricing to bring it out here and when we saw the pricing, we just felt that it was cost-prohibitive."
The Hockey Hall of Fame couldn't be reached for comment, and it's tough to be too critical without knowing all the details, but one has to wonder the rationale for charging the same amount to rent the sport's greatest trophy as they do for renting a trophy that hasn't been in circulation since 2007, and doesn't seem to be important enough to warrant inclusion on the hall's website.
Fans might be critical of the Mallards for not ponying up the money to get the Cup the team basically owned in the '90s to the building this weekend. But keep in mind the Mallards are a minor-league franchise, one that doesn't have the bottomless pockets of its NHL parent club. It's still a business, and it's doubtful the number of fans that would come to the arena just to see the Cup would be worth the price of getting it here.
"It's something we'll continue to look at but at this stage, we're bringing the alumni in and they're the centerpiece of the weekend," McNamara said. "Their accomplishments and what they did over the years to build the organization, the focus will be on them. At some point, if the Cup is made available to us at a reasonable amount, certainly we'll bring it in."
So fans, go enjoy the weekend. Have fun watching the old heroes get another well-deserved moment in the sun. The Mallards have had the highest of highs and lowest of lows in their history, and 20 years is a big accomplishment, one that didn't even seem a possibility just five years ago.
And here's a thought — if crowds start routinely reaching those old glory days of 9,000-plus, the Mallards might be able to one day splurge a little bit and get the Colonial Cup here, maybe for a 30th anniversary celebration.
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Or, the team could just win a Kelly Cup this year.
Motte back, Siemer signed: Goaltender C.J. Motte was released from his professional tryout agreement with the Charlotte Checkers and returned to the Mallards Wednesday. Motte had a successful stint in his week up in the AHL. He played 19 minutes, 51 seconds of scoreless relief Saturday, then made 30 saves Tuesday in the Checkers' 5-1 win over Milwaukee, Motte's first AHL win since March 28, 2015.
Along with Motte's return, the Mallards moved goaltender Tanner Milliron to reserve and signed forward John Siemer to a standard player contract. Siemer, 24, joins the team from the Southern Professional League's Macon Mayhem. He ranks third in the SPHL with 26 points, tied for fourth with 12 goals and is tied for sixth with 14 assists. He also played six games and grabbed one assist last month with the ECHL's Greenville Swamp Rabbits.
Players of the week: Norfolk Admirals forward Brodie Dupont was named the Sher-Wood Hockey player of the week after scoring three goals and adding five assists in three games last week. Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Mark Visentin was named the CCM goaltender of the week after going 3-0-0 with a shutout against the Mallards and a 1.65 goals against average and a .940 save percentage.
This week: The Mallards host the Indy Fuel on Friday at 7:05 p.m. Prior to the game, the Mallards will be honoring former team president Howard Cornfield and alumni before the game. The alumni will then meet fans and sign autographs during the game. Following the game, there will be a post-game event at the iWireless Center. Entry is $10 and fans are encouraged to book in advance by calling 309-277-1364.
The first 1,000 fans through the door also receive commemorative Mallards' 20th season patches. The Mallards are 4-0-0 this season against the Fuel.
Saturday, the Mallards host the Fort Wayne Komets at 7:05 p.m. Prior to the game, there will be an alumni game at 4:30 p.m. Tickets to the night game are also good for the alumni game, and fans can exit the building and have their tickets rescanned between games.
Following the game, there will be an auction of game-worn jerseys to benefit the Genesis Health Services Foundation. The Mallards are 1-6-0 this year against the Komets.