The Oklahoma City Barons, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, announced Thursday it will cease operations at the end of the 2014-15 season.
The decision comes after the Barons were unable to complete a new affiliation agreement with the Oilers. The Barons have been the Oilers’ AHL affiliate since the 2010-11 AHL season.
“The players, coaches and fans of the OKC Barons have been outstanding partners to our organization as our development team affiliate,” Oilers Entertainment Group president and COO Patrick LaForge said in a press release. “We have enjoyed a solid working relationship with the City of Oklahoma City as well as with Prodigal, the Barons’ management company, throughout the team’s five years. The decision to move on from Oklahoma City, although not easy, will open new opportunities for the Oilers organization and our AHL business. We want to thank Bob Funk Jr. and his team at Prodigal for their partnership in bringing professional hockey to Oklahoma City.”
In the five-year history of the team, the Barons have enjoyed a great deal of success, especially in the regular season. Throughout their first four seasons, the Barons had a combined record of 161-105-10-32 and won the West Division during the 2011-12 campaign. This season, the Barons sit atop the West Division with a 16-6-2-2 record after 26 games.
Despite their success on the ice, off the ice is another story. The team is attracting an average of just 3,219 fans per game this season, which ranks 26th out of 30 teams.
Prodigal, LLC, the Barons’ local management company, released the following statement:
“The decision to cease operations of the OKC Barons at the end of the current season was business-driven. This was a very difficult decision to make because we love the team, love the city and love our fans,” said Bob Funk Jr., CEO of Prodigal. “Without a more equitable financial agreement with economic terms to provide the best opportunity for sustained success, we can no longer justify additional investments in the operations without higher returns. We have the highest regard for the Edmonton Oilers organization and it has been a privilege serving as its primary development club. Even though we were not successful at completing an agreement, we have enjoyed an excellent working relationship with the Edmonton Oilers’ management and coaching staff over the past five years. We are also grateful for the committed partner we have had in the City of Oklahoma City. They shared our passion for bringing hockey to Oklahoma City. Most of all, we want to thank our fans in Oklahoma City for five years of unconditional enthusiastic support. We appreciate your dedication to the OKC Barons and the sport of the hockey. The management team at the OKC Barons is unequaled. They are simply the best. We will never say never to bringing professional hockey back to Oklahoma City in the future. We will always leave the door open.”