The Alaska Aces will cease operations at the end of the season, ending a 22-year run in the ECHL and the old West Coast Hockey League, which was absorbed by the ECHL in 2003.
The Aces have won three Kelly Cups in their history. They have played the Indy Fuel in each of the last two seasons, with the Fuel traveling to Anchorage for three games in 2016-17.
Alaska has always had to deal with high travel costs due to its remote location in Anchorage. It cited a downturn in the Alaska economy, in which season ticket sales and sponsorships combined have declined by more than $850,000 over the last couple of seasons.
“This is devastating for all of us,” Aces managing partner Terry Parks said in a release. “For the owners, the Alaska Aces has been a labor of love. There are no state or local subsidies. None of us has received any financial return but rather have had to continually invest in the organization to keep it operating.”
This leaves the ECHL with 28 teams for the 2017-18 season. The expansion Worcester Railers will join the league, while the Jacksonville IceMen will resume operations after taking a year off from their former base in Evansville. Anchorage will continue to be served with the NCAA’s Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves, who share Sullivan Arena with the Aces. UAA competes in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
As was the case with the Evansville IceMen when they took a one-year suspension of operations before moving to Jacksonville, all Alaska players will become free agents when the 2017-18 season begins, which is June 16 each year on the ECHL calendar.
The ECHL termed it a voluntary suspension, so the Aces’ ownership will retain the franchise rights.
Also Thursday, the ECHL announced the sale of the Allen Americans to a group owned by Jack Gulati, who also owns the Reading Royals.