Komets’ Michael Franke responds to Quad City announcement

Like most professional minor league hockey observers, Komets president Michael Franke was a little surprised by the timing of the Quad City Mallards’ announcement Tuesday morning that they were ceasing operations at the end of the season. He was not surprised at the message, though.

“I thought if they were going to go out they would have informed everybody in December or January,” Franke said. “This is a tough business. I know there’s been a lot of change internally over there, and it’s gotten to the point where it was not performing the way they wanted it to go.”

With a 20-37-4 record, the Mallards are on their way to the worst finish in franchise history. The Quad City Times is reporting Jordan Melville said he will lose close to $1 million this season and estimates he has lost at least $4 million since he purchased the team. The Mallards are averaging 3,303 fans per game.

The Mallards cut ties with team president and General Manager Bob McNamara in December. Mallards owner Jordan Melville, who took over the team in 2012 in the Central Hockey League and transitioned to the ECHL in 2014.

“Jordan Melville and his father were great partners,” Franke said. “They tried to make it work. It’s just not working, but you can’t fault them. They did a lot of great things, including embracing the history of the team, but sometimes that’s tough to do.”

The ECHL announced Tuesday it is moving Wheeling into the Central Division next season to replace the Mallards.

“Quad City was once one of the greatest franchises in all of minor league hockey, maybe the most successful one,” Franke said. “Maybe somebody could come back in a couple of years and rekindle the interest. It’s really too late now for anyone who would be interested in our league to go in there (for next season).”

The Mallards were a cornerstone franchise for the Colonial/United Hockey League from 1995-2007, winning three championships and reaching the finals three other seasons. Then there was a disastrous three-year run in the American Hockey League as the Calgary Flames’ farm club before joining the International Hockey League in 2009.

“We used to hate going over there, it was like a snakepit going over there,” Franke said. “They drew 8,000 people practically every night. It was new, but that was also 20 years ago and everything has changed, including the economy over there. There are so many more things to do than there were 20 years ago, and there have been some bad situations over there.”

The fan response was never the same after joining the AHL. Franke said Quad City’s hockey future may be up to Scott Mullen, the highly respected executive director of the TaxSlayer Center who has to decide if the arena needs a team to fill dates.