Beginning the 2010-11 season, the Oklahoma City Barons will be the Edmonton Oilers new AHL affiliate. The team will play out of the 13,399 seat Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The team's offical website is at http://okcbarons.com/ .
The Cox Convention Center, more commonly referred to in the area as "the Myriad" after it's original name, opened in 1972. Since that time it has hosted many events and sports teams. Currently the Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz of the Arena Football League also call the arena home.
The arena is due for a budgeted $4.5 million upgrade resulting from the Barons beginning play there in October 2010. The last hockey franchise that called the arena home was the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League in 2002, before they moved to the newer Ford Center and suspended operations in 2009.
The Oklahoma City Barons ownership group, known as Prodigal Hockey, is headed by Robert Funk. Robert Funk was also the head of the Oklahoma City Blazers ownership group. The team name was decided based on fan submissions to the Prodigal Hockey website.
Some of the more popular submissions were Energy, Wind, Marshalls, and Bison. These names were also popular in the City's search for their new NBA franchise name, but ultimately the Barons monkier was decided on.
Also, the team is currently conducting a contest to name the mascot for the franchise for the upcoming season. This is a great way to make the city and fans feel more ownership in the franchise by allowing input into the team name and mascot.
As well, the Edmonton Oilers naturally provided assistance with the team logo and jersey design process.
Barons owner Robert Funk had this to say in regards to the logo and team name, "Thanks to the hockey fans in Oklahoma City, my staff and the staff of the Edmonton Oilers for their assistance in this project. Our goal was to find a crisp, clean mark and name that related to Oklahoma City on multiple levels.
"Further, we believe the elements within the logo can stand on their own as marks in Oklahoma City, but also tell the story of our partnership with Edmonton."
The affliation seems like a natural fit as Oklahoma City is well known for it's production of oil and oil derricks can be seem scattered nearly everywhere in the surrounding area.
The Edmonton Oilers will handle the Hockey Operations of the franchise while Robert Funk and his ownership group will handle the business side of things. The arrangement is that Robert Funk will pay a flat fee to the Oilers for the next five years and that will entitle his ownership group to receive ticket and sponsorship revenues. At this time nearly 850 seasons tickets have already been sold for the upcoming 2010-11 season.
Kevin Lowe and the Oilers hockey operations group has yet to hire a new Assistant General Manager for General Manager of the Oilers Steve Tambellini. The Assistant General Manager will oversee the hockey operations of the AHL Barons.
Currrently rumored names for the position of Assistant General Manager are the WHL's Vancouver Giants GM Scott Bonner, or the WHL's Tri-City Americans GM Bob Tory. It is also unknown if the current Edmonton Oilers affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, head coach Rob Daum will become the coach of the Barons as well.
History of the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliates
From 1984 to 1988 the Oilers AHL affiliate was operated out of the 10,595 seat Halifax Metro Centre. At that time they were the Nova Scotia Oilers. After the 1987-88 season they were relocated to Sydney, Nova Scotia.
While in Sydney, Nova Scotia from 1988 to 1996 they played under the name of the Cape Breton Oilers. Their home games were played out of the 4,670 seat Centre 200 Arena. In 1992-93 the Cape Breton Oilers won 14 games and only lost two in the playoffs on route to a Calder Cup Championship.
During the 1993 playoffs the franchise was also witness to an amazing performance by Bill McDougall. He scored 26 goals and 26 assists for 52 points in 16 games. In comparison Wayne Gretzky holds the playoff scoring record in the NHL with 47 points.
In 1996 Edmonton moved their AHL affiliate from the east coast to Hamilton, Ontario. In Hamilton the newly minted Bulldogs played out of the 17,838 seat Copps Coliseum.
In their time in Hamilton under the Oilers the Bulldogs won the 2002-03 regular season title, they won their division three times (2002-03, 2003-04, 2009-10), they won the conference championship three times (1996-97, 2002-03, 2006-07), and they also won the Calder Cup Championship in 2006-07.
During the 2002-03 season the Edmonton Oilers shared affiliation of the Hamilton Bulldogs with the Montreal Canadiens. This was to facilitate the change in ownership of the AHL franchise.
The following season (2003-04) the Oilers brought the Toronto Roadrunners to the AHL. They played out of the 7,851 seat Ricoh Coliseum for only one season. The franchise was moved to Edmonton, Alberta due to a questionable business model implemented by owner Lyle Abrhams and a dispute with Ricoh Coliseum officials.
The Edmonton Road Runners would played out of the 16,839 seat Rexall Place during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. After only one season in operation, on June 6, 2005 the Oilers suspended team operations and were left without an AHL affiliate. Now the Oilers would have to loan their prospects to various AHL franchises, not a desireable means of development to say the least.
This would last until March 19, 2007 when the Oilers affliliated with, former Tampa Bay Lightning AHL team, the Springfield Falcons. In Springfield the Falcons played out of the 6,889 seat MassMutual Center. The Oilers have ceased affiliation with the Falcons beginning the 2010-11 season with the annoucement that the Oklahoma City Barons will become their new AHL franchise.
The Springfield Falcons now have a one-year affiliation agreement (2010-11) with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which also holds a one-year option for the 2011-12 season.
This brings us back to the present day with the Oilers beginning a new chapter in their minor league system. The Oilers have a great deal of rebuilding ahead of them and Oklahoma City hockey fans can look forward to many young NHL prospects roaming the ice at the Cox Convention Center in the near future.
Robert Funk quote courtesy theAHL.com