Edmonton Oilers president and chief executive officer Patrick LaForge confirmed that the rumors were true. Sunday, LaForge told The Edmonton Journal and The Oklahoman that the NHL team has interest in placing its top farm club in Oklahoma City.
"Yes, we have an interest in Oklahoma City as a market," LaForge said.
A major step toward Oklahoma City landing the Oilers' Triple-A farm team, which would play in the American Hockey League beginning with the 2010-2011 season, might come Tuesday. The Oklahoma City city council is expected to vote on whether to accept the terms of a proposed lease with AHL Hockey Club, LLC.
"Of course, we wish them (AHL Hockey Club, LLC) luck and hope to do business with them — if and when they are legally clear and ready for entering into a negotiation," LaForge said. "I also hope we can get to that point soon because the 2010-11 AHL season is closer than we think."
Last week, Express Sports, which owns the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League, announced that the Double-A franchise would not play the 2009-2010 season. The announcement coincided with Express Sports filing paperwork to begin negotiations for a prospective AHL franchise. The letter of intent was between the city council and AHL Hockey Club, LLC.
The Oklahoman received a copy of a proposed lease Sunday. According to city documents, the lease will be for five years at the Cox Convention Center, beginning with the 2010-11 AHL season. There is an option to extend the lease for two additional three-year terms if the AHL Hockey Club, LLC elects to.
However, the lease can be terminated if the average paid attendance falls below 4,000 fans. History indicates that would not be a problem. The Blazers led the CHL in attendance for 17 consecutive years, including 6,508 for 32 regular-season home games this past season.
The city will reserve 60 dates for all preseason and regular season games. The AHL team would receive 30 dates, either Friday or Saturday, which usually attract the most fans.
Twenty dates will be reserved during April and May to accommodate any playoff games.
The new team would pay $7,500 per game with possible additional charges for games played on holidays.
Renovations and upgrades to the Cox Center are also part of the lease.
Depending on the day of the week, the Double-A Blazers paid between $8,000 to $12,000 per game to rent the Ford Center last season. Express Sports elected to not renew its lease with the Ford Center for the Blazers last Wednesday after months of negotiations.
Edmonton owns a Triple-A franchise, which is currently dormant. The Oilers' top prospects currently play for the Springfield (Mass.) Falcons. The Oilers' contract with the Falcons expires after the 2009-2010 season.