For years Alaskans have rang their cowbells, celebrated the sound of the fog horn, and even hoisted the Kelly Cup. While the Aces have meant more to our state than just hockey, this season will be the last.
The Alaska Aces organization announces that it will cease operations at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season.
Aces owner Jerry Mackie tells KTUU, "It's a really difficult decision for us, it's like losing a family member. I'm just numb, as are my partners, having to come to this conclusion. We'd like to think we did a lot of good with the organization in the past 15 years"
On top of three Kelly Cup championships, the Aces have been champions of community. Sponsoring youth hockey camps, giving back to charitable organizations, even having their players visit elementary schools and hospitals, the list of community involvement is lengthy.
The Aces cite the declining economy as the leading factor in ceasing operations. Just this season, the Aces have lost more money than the past two combined.
The Aces sponsorships are down $600,000, season ticket sales down $262,000 and attendance is down about 1,500 spectators per game. Considering Alaska's current fiscal situation, the Aces believe this downward trend will continue.
The ECHL has granted the Aces permission to "go dark" as Mackie puts it, meaning the Aces will not play next year. As for the future, Mackie says, "there are other cities in the United States that want to have a team, and many of those are new expansion cities or cities that have had teams in the past. We will explore if there is opportunity to sell the team somewhere else but the thought of not having the Alaska Aces in Alaska anymore is really, really hard for us to come to grips with and we feel really bad about that."
The Aces season is not over yet though, and Mackie hopes fans will enjoy this final ride. The Aces are currently on a 10-game road trip, returning to the Sullivan Arena on March 15th. If the Aces do not make the playoffs, their final regular season game will be at home on April 8.
"We would like to take pride in what we've done the past 15 years, and hold our head high and enjoy the remaining games of the season with our fans and sponsors. Write the final chapter here and close the book on what was a really fun time in our lives and our fans that have been so loyal to the Alaska Aces."