The Skipjacks are leaving, but another hockey team is comin to Baltimore to replace them, owner Tom Ebright said yesterday.
Calling this "decision week," Ebright said he expects the matter to be resolved in a few days.
Ebright said he expects to move his American Hockey League Skipjacks toWilkes-Barre, Pa., Syracuse, N.Y., or Portland, Maine, and to buy a franchise in the East Coast Hockey League, a rung below the AHL on the minor-league ladder, and bring it to Baltimore.
Ebright refused to identify the ECHL franchise with which he is negotiating, but he did say Roanoke and Knoxville are reportedly for sale, and it is believed that Ebright favors Knoxville.
Ebright would own both the AHL and ECHL franchises.
"This is decision week because the City Council is expected to vote on a resolution to see if there is real interest in keeping a team here," Ebright said.
"Pieces will fall into place in other areas, too. Wilkes-Barre, Syracuse and Portland are putting together packages to tell [prospective buyers] what support is available.
"If I move the AHL franchise, it's highly probable I'll negotiate to buy an ECHL team and bring it to Baltimore. Two are for sale [Roanoke and Knoxville] and both lost a lot of money last year."
Ebright says it costs $1.3 million a season to operate an AHL franchise and $800,000 to operate an ECHL team.
"We might break even from day one even without forced community involvement like we're looking for now for the Skipjacks," Ebright said. "Even if attendance drops 10 percent [as a result of going from the AHL to the ECHL], it would mean losing about $100,000, which is better than the $400,000 we've been losing."