The AHL’s Rochester Americans declined to extend their affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Florida Panthers – despite two consecutive winning seasons. They think they can do better without the big club calling the shots.Minor leagues exist to serve their major league counterparts. The wins and losses of the farm team are secondary to the goals of the big club.
But each team is also a business that must attract fans and corporate sponsors and bring profits to owners.
The Americans believe they could perform better on the ice, and by extension, in financial statements, if they didn’t cede all control to the Panthers. They’re even willing to take on part of the cost of veteran players – to compliment a prospect-laden roster – in exchange for a say in on-ice issues.
That’s because Americans’ President Lewis Staats said he wants to win. He claims winning is the single biggest factor in minor league attendance. But there’s a ton of evidence to the contrary.
- In baseball, for example, about two-thirds of minor league teams operate profitability. Some losing teams are doing pretty well, too.
- Studies have found the correlation between win percentage and attendance to be weak, at best.
- For many, the minor leagues are a substitute to the big leagues. People go to games to get a similar product for a fraction of the cost.
Even if profits were truly dependent on winning, the Americans might want to think twice before splitting from the Panthers. Florida’s newly-hired general manager – Dale Tallon, architect of the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks – knows how to draft talented young players, most of whom would pass through the Americans roster.
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