With the possible sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to the Winnipeg based company True North many questions are being asked not only about the NHL team but also their minor league affiliate the Chicago Wolves.
The Wolves have been with the Thrashers since they joined the AHL in 2002. With the rumors running rampant all over the internet and local newspapers in Winnipeg about the selling of the Thrashers the Chicago Wolves are in a very good position for whatever happens in terms of the sale.
If the sale goes through with Winnipeg getting the Thrashers the most likely scenario is that True North (company of interest in buying the team) would move the team to the MTS Centre where the current AHL team the Manitoba Moose play.
Then the current AHL team the Moose would be moved somewhere else as True North also has ownership of that team. That would mean the Wolves would be out of a NHL affiliate. Many have asked what the rule is of playing in the AHL and having an affiliate is. The official ruling is below.
"To answer your question, as part of the application for membership for an AHL franchise, a potential AHL owner must have evidence of an affiliation agreement in place."
"The league's constitution, by-laws, regulations or policies do not necessarily prevent an existing franchise from operating independently should it lose its NHL affiliate, but considering (a) there are 30 National Hockey League teams who need an environment in which to develop their top prospects; (b) there is not a surplus of AHL franchises relative to the number of NHL franchises; (c) the additional costs that would be incurred if an AHL owner had to pay all of its players' salaries and other expenses; and (d) it would likely be difficult to ice a competitive product using a talent pool that doesn't include NHL-contracted players while still being guided by the AHL's development rule; I don't think it's likely we would see it happen."
This was from a Wolves fan who emailed the league and he got an immediate response from the office. You can read the rest of the thread here.
So with many asking if the Wolves can go without an NHL team affiliate, the answer is yes but you would probably see ticket season prices increase to pay for the costs of player's contracts. So yes it is possible but I'm sure the Wolves aren't looking at that option as their first move.
There was also a possible talk about the Wolves pairing up with the Vancouver Canucks who would lose their affiliate if the sale does indeed go through. However many NHL teams want their affiliates close to them in terms of location so they can shuffle players up and down if need be and the Wolves are about 4 hours and 45 minutes of flight time away from the city. It would be an interesting scenario if they did pair up as there are many Wolves fans that are Blackhawk fans and the disdain for the Canucks increases each year. That would be an interesting partnership to say the least.
With the Wolves though I'm sure they are getting more calls from NHL teams looking for AHL affiliates due to the way the team is run. The team is catered to as a NHL team in the AHL in terms of practice facilities, and the amenities not many other minor league teams can offer which a huge bargaining chip.
Yes there are plenty of rumors right now and many sites are reporting that things are done, and things will be announced next week etc. But with so many rumors out there, many are hard to find out if they are really truth or not. I'm sure with the sale possibly going through in the next few weeks then we will hear something on the Wolves end on what exactly their plan is for the upcoming season.
Former Chicago Wolves player Kevin Doell was in town this week to participate in some activites with the kids from a local band camp. Kevin was quoted in saying that he would love to play again in the states and he did sport his Chicago Wolves jersey throughout the day with the children. Doell last played with the Wolves in the 09-10 season and was a prolific penalty killer and fit well on the 3rd line. He did suffer a concussion in the playoffs and did not return against the Texas Stars.
Despite the rumors of Nathan Oystrick returning the Wolves, he has not been contacted by the team to discuss a possible return. Oystrick this past season played with the Peoria Rivermen as well as saw some time with the St. Louis Blues. Oystrick had a pretty good season on the back-end scoring 15 goals to go along with 30 assists.