Quad City, SPHL Edging Closer to Historic Addition

Beautiful Midwestern arena property still available in suburban west Illinois near Iowa.

From the moment the Quad City Mallards ECHL franchise fold was confirmed, immediately Taxslayer Center (home of the former Mallards) and fans in Moline, Illinois were desperately seeking a new home.

The two front-runners were obvious, and quickly confirmed: the States’ lone Tier I Junior hockey league in the United States Hockey League, and the up-and-coming competitor of the “AA” ECHL in the Southern Professional Hockey League (“A” Pro Hockey).

Time was not favorable for the interested ownership groups, specifically in regards to creating a new franchise in a league in time to play in the ’18-19 season.

The USHL seemed to not be the target, as the league held its draft and continued on its way.  However, it doesn’t seem that the move to the USHL was heavily considered, as Dave Eminian of the Peoria Journal-Star’s March 26 beat had this nugget.

This is all-of confirmed by an article from Our Quad Cities. According to the article, Taxslayer Center Executive Director Scott Mullen said “six to eight {are} interested in owning a team in the [Quad Cities] as it moves towards the SPHL”.

In my article from last month regarding Quad City’s SPHL pursuit, I mentioned that the soft-close date between the SPHL and QC to play next season was May 15.

That’s today.

However, the SPHL has learned from its history of being burned by rushing ownership, and the last thing that a high-stock league like this needs is doing anything unnecessarily hasty with a long-time established hockey market who’ve already seen season ticket pledges flowing in.

Especially right in the heart of ECHL country.

The SPHL and QC clearly are a match, and both sides don’t just want, but need this deal to happen to play next season.

Quad City has had professional hockey, in some facet, every year since 1995. The SPHL is in prime time to scoop up a tried and true hockey community like Moline, and this would send a message of legitimacy to franchises across lower and higher leagues.

The costs of the ECHL compared to the SPHL are incomparable, and with SPHL teams hitting higher attendance numbers (first image below) than at least four ECHL teams (second image), it seems Quad City could be the start to the rule of moving to cheaper, popular independent hockey, and not the exception to the rule.

Roanoke, Virginia is home to a long-time SPHL franchise in the Railyard Dawgs, but the city is no stranger to losing their ECHL franchise, albeit now 14 years ago.

Roanoke is a champion of how life after the ECHL can be beneficial and retained. A move down from the ECHL for Quad City is promising, says Railyard Dawgs voice Brian Gardner.

“…It’s great for the SPHL, since Quad City is an established market with an existing fan base. The location gives the league a stronger hold in the Midwest, as well as a natural rival and travel partner for Peoria and Evansville.” said Gardener, “From the SPHL side of things, it seems beneficiary.

Interestingly enough, in the earlier linked Our Quad Cities article, we also learned the ECHL is locking down on the “Quad City Mallards” name, without bail. Meaning that Quad City SPHL will be the first adaptation of QC without the Mallards name since 2009 (Quad City Flames, American Hockey League ’07-09). The Mallards name was synonymic with QC hockey from 1995-2007, then again 2009-2018.

Regardless of what name Moline and surrounding communities rally around, it’ll be more than welcome as home to the South.

Moline allows the SPHL to get their third Midwestern team, a geographic rival for Peoria, and start to make the ECHL hear footsteps.

The eyes of the Mason-Dixon will remain on the Land of Lincoln especially close in these trying weeks to come.

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