John Royal Aeros players interact with the crowd following the team's last ever regular season home game.
The next time the Aeros play hockey, their home rink will be the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, and the team will be known as the Iowa Wild. And come October, for the first time in 20 years, the city of Houston will not be hosting professional hockey games.
About ten days ago, just before the start of the playoffs, some Toyota Center flunkies came down to the team's locker room and after practice, they were grabbing players and asking them for their favorite memories to help commemorate the tenth anniversary of Toyota Center. One of the players, not to be named, responded with a puzzled "We're leaving, right?"
The Aeros were never appreciated by their Toyota Center landlords. Toyota Center officials reportedly requested a 300 percent increase over the team's already above-market-rate rent. The condition of the ice has always been questionable. There were problems with the team gaining access to the building. The brand-new big-boy video board malfunctioned often on the Aeros. The ticket system crashed right before the final regular season home game, stranding thousands of fans outside the arena because they could not claim their will-call tickets.
The bad guy is not the Aeros. The owner of the team, the Minnesota Wild, did not want to move the team. There was a good fan base in Houston, there were nice facilities and there was easy access to two large airports that could get players to wherever they needed to get them whenever they needed to get them there. But despite their best efforts, the Aeros just could not get a reasonable deal from Toyota Center.
There's kind of a strange karma issue involving Les Alexander, who runs Toyota Center, and the Rockets and the Aeros, and the whole CSN Houston debacle. The Aeros and the team's fans are suffering from the unreasonableness of Alexander and his lease demands just as Alexander and Rockets fans are suffering from the unreasonableness of Jim Crane and the Astros.
John Royal Aeros fans stranded outside Toyota Center as the team's final regular season home game started thanks to a Toyota Center ticketing snafu.
So maybe there is some karma in Alexander's team not being viewable by a majority of the Houston viewing public. Interest in what was an exciting playoff team was virtually nonexistent for most of the season because if fans couldn't see the team, then it didn't exist. If Jim Crane's not so unreasonable, the Rockets are on TV. If Les Alexander's not so damn unreasonable, then there is no such thing as the Iowa Wild and the Aeros are returning for season 20.
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But perhaps Alexander does get it. Perhaps this is all his way of inflicting revenge on the Aeros, his own form of revenge on an organization that treated him like crap 20 years ago.
There might never have been a Toyota Center if the Aeros, then owned by Chuck Watson, weren't running the Summit. Watson used his lease control to block two attempts by Les Alexander to bring a NHL team to Houston. Watson made it difficult for the Rockets to get the good dates at the facility. So Alexander threatened to move the team and got the Toyota Center built for him, with him being the landlord. Then he started doing to the Aeros what the Aeros did to him and the Rockets, especially since the city of Houston cut a deal with a cult and surrendered the Summit to Dr. Joel's House of Love. And now with no other facility for the Aeros to play in, it's all over.
The Houston Aeros are no more and the city of Houston is left with a taxpayer-funded facility that will now sit empty for about 300 days of the year because Alexander crunched the numbers and he discovered he could turn a tidy profit on the Rockets and pimping Toyota Center out for a few concerts here and there. But at least Les Alexander will still make money, so that's all that really matters.
The Houston Aeros are dead. Long live the Houston Aeros!