For 1990-91, the International Hockey League could have a couple of surprise extra teams, in addition to already-in Kansas City, and one of them might be in the West.
IHL commissioner Tom Berry refuses to disclose the locations of the possible new entries but says they're serious enough to have forked over cash already in order to be considered for admission next week.The IHL will hold its annual summer meetings June 14-15 in Vancouver, British Columbia, in connection with the National Hockey League summer meetings and NHL draft.
Golden Eagle general manager Mike Runge and Jazz general manager Tim Howells, representing club owner Larry H. Miller, are scheduled to attend the meetings.
There are no big issues facing the IHL this summer, said Berry, and he's not sure what the reaction of current owners will be to the two cities asking admittance. Both cities have asked to remain anonymous, he said, apparently to avoid embarrassment should they be turned down by the IHL.
Berry did say one of the cities is in the West, which would surely help the Eagles, Phoenix Roadrunners and the new Kansas City Blades, who are already full members of the league. Another West team would lessen travel expenses for all in that division.
As yet, the Blades have no NHL working agreement, and they are among several IHL teams and some American League teams courting the three NHL teams that have yet to affiliate with a minor-league city for the coming season. The Hartford Whalers, Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders are currently without farm cities.
Phoenix and Fort Wayne of the IHL played as indepedents last season but would like affiliations, Kansas City is pursuing a working agreement, and Flint lost the New York Rangers last week. As expected, the Rangers moved to the AHL.
Berry said that if they're approved next week, the two hopeful entrant cities could "be on line, ready to go" for 90-91. "It's beyond the conversation point," stresses Berry. "We have their money."
Other business for the IHL meetings will include regular committee meetings plus the status of the inactive Saginaw franchise, discussion of league-wide marketing techniques, possible commercial IHL sponsorships (such as by a clothing manufacturer) and pursuit of television contracts.
Berry said most IHL teams had between four and 24 games televised to local audiences last year (the Eagles had none), and the league would like to eventually have IHL-wide TV airplay. Berry noted that the modernization of the IHL over the past five years has resulted in a more marketable product, both for TV as well as sponsors and fans. Most teams have beefed up front-office staffs toward local marketing goals, he said, adding the IHL held meetings for marketing people last week and will emphasize marketing next week, too.
Berry said Saginaw ownership must pay a five-figure fee to keep its inactive IHL franchise alive for next season, even though it's not expected to have a team. If that fee isn't paid, Saginaw would probably lose its current franchise. Saginaw could sell its franchise to one of the two teams seeking entry to the league, but Berry said that seems unlikely.