Flames or no Flames, hockey stays.
Salt Lake Golden Eagles' owner Larry H. Miller and general manager Tim Howells held a Delta Center press conference Thursday afternoon to quell speculation about the franchise and its relationship with the Calgary Flames of the NHL, the parent club of the Eagles for the past six seasons."By mutual agreement we decided, based on the rhetoric going both ways, that it was best for the relationship to be terminated," Miller said of their affiliation with the Flames. "Calgary would rather have a Canadian affiliation . . . the Calgary option was not a good one for us."
Nevertheless, Miller plans to continue professional hockey in Salt Lake City. "As to the question of whether or not hockey stays, the answer is definitively yes."
Miller and Howells also confirmed rumors of on-going preliminary discussions with the NHL expansion franchise that will begin play in Anaheim, California (which is owned by Disney) in the 1993-94 season. "It's not a done deal," Miller said. "But Salt Lake does have a number of advantages: its proximity to an international airport, the western NHL cities, and it's bigger than most minor league cities. They're well aware of the infrastructure and the beauty of the city, and its lifestyle, and they like (those things)."
Should discussions with Anaheim lead to dead end, there are other American NHL teams looking for a new affiliate, including the New York Islanders. However, Miller indicated there are only two such teams and that there are at least three minor league clubs looking for parent teams, so competition in that realm could prove tough.
Any possible Anaheim connection could begin to take shape within a couple of weeks. The club, named the Mighty Ducks (no kidding), is expected to name a general manager next week and Howells expects things to progress rapidly from that point.
"The circumstances dictate (that a decision would come soon)," Howells said. "Arguably, they're behind schedule; the Florida expansion team has had a GM for four weeks now, so time constraints may force them along to make a decision."
If worse comes to worst, Miller will take the team independent. "On the plus side, independents have met better than average success; but it is expensive to set up your own scouting organization . . . but hockey will be here, and not as a year-at-a-time proposition. It will be in this building with this ownership."