WEST VALLEY CITY — Not too long ago, Utah Grizzlies president Tim Mouser insisted reports of the International Hockey League's demise were greatly exaggerated.
Now, if a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is true, the end could come as early as Thursday.
The newspaper is reporting that the IHL, which was formed in 1945, will cease operations after its playoffs are complete. And that six of its teams, including the Utah Grizzlies, will pay a $2.5 million entry fee (with $1 million of it reportedly earmarked to help the IHL close business) to join the rival American Hockey League.
The transfer is expected to become official when the AHL Board of Governors meets Thursday. Utah, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Houston, Manitoba and Milwaukee are the IHL survivors expected to join the 20 existing AHL teams in a circuit that may be renamed NHL2.
The other five IHL teams — Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City and Orlando — will reportedly not be included in the merger.
AHL president David Andrews has reportedly issued a gag order concerning expansion and will not comment on the matter until later in the week. However, IHL President Doug Moss laughed when he heard the merger reports.
"Oh really? I don't think that's what's going to happen. But to tell you the truth, I have no comment on that. There's been a lot of rumors. A lot of innuendo here and there," Moss told the Journal Sentinel.
"I'm not commenting on any rumor. We're working on the playoffs. We're working on plans to operate next year. That's what we're doing. That's what my concern is. So I've got no comment. I don't know anything about teams joining the American League on Thursday or anything like that. Call me if it does happen," Moss said.
Utah Grizzlies officials were not readily available for comment.