On The Road Again: Wild Move AHL Franchise to Iowa
Back in the early 70’s the city of Houston Texas was graced with a hockey franchise in the now defunct Western Hockey Association. Named the Aeros, the people of Houston were treated to six winning seasons, five 40+ win seasons, three finals appearances, two Avco Trophies (the WHA’s Stanley Cup), and the first ever Father/Son line consisting of Gordie Howe and his sons Mark and Marty. But on July 9, 1978 the Aeros ceased operation due to the NHL/WHA merger. The team laid dormant for the better part of 15 years until 1994 when the city was granted a franchise in the also defunct International Hockey League. Taking the name Aeros to honor the WHA team of the past, the IHL’s Aeros would go through their own form of merger as six IHL teams (including the Aeros) merged into the American Hockey League in 2001.
The 2002 Aeros would finish the season with 47 wins, 104 points en rout to their first and to this date only Calder Cup championship. The Aeros would begin affiliation with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild in 2006 and have since made four playoff appearances in the six years of affiliation.
But the end of an era has come. On April 18th, owner Chuck Watson of Minnesota Sports and Entertainment announced that the team was moving to Des Moines, Iowa and will be renamed the Iowa Wild. Cause of the move was due to the failed attempts to reach a new lease agreement with the Toyota Center and the City of Houston. The arena alerted the team that it was no longer interested in hosting a professional hockey team and that cost of the facility would raise from $24,000 to $42,000 if the Aeros wished to stay. The Toyota Center felt it could increase revenue by hosting more concerts instead of minor league hockey.
Enter Des Moines Iowa, a city that has held two previous AHL franchises, the Iowa Chops and the Iowa Stars. Beginning in 2005, the Iowa Stars took over the Louisville Panthers franchise during their three-year agreement with the Dallas Stars. After reaching an agreement with the Anaheim Ducks, the team was christened the Iowa Chops. After missing the playoffs in their only year of existence, the franchise was moved to Ceder Park, Texas and was renamed the Texas Stars and have achieved success in the heartland.
The new Wild will play their home games in the 16,000-seat Wells Fargo Arena which is also home to the Arena Football
League’s Iowa Barnstormers (who are known for being one of the first teams Kurt Werner played for during his pro career) and the NBA Development League Iowa Energy who supply talent to the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Denver Nuggets, and the newly named New Orleans Pelicans.
The new website for the team is now up and fully functional at www.iowawild.com