Instead of a 16-hour roundtrip to open the season tonight, the Quad City Mallards have gladly accepted a rain check for a different journey this weekend.
Rather than play shorthanded in Wichita, Kan., the Flock is being allowed extra time to focus on the ownership-related issues that delayed the start of training camp nine days.
Thursday marked the first two-a-day workout sessions, with the team finally allowed on the ice Wednesday afternoon after the necessary insurance was secured by the Central Hockey League, according to a well-placed source.
However, to progress to next Friday's new season-opener at Tulsa, and a home debut next Saturday and Sunday, the Mallards are still working on several issues on and off the ice.
New coach Terry Ruskowski still is awaiting seven Canadian imports, seeking clearance from U.S. border officials.
CHL commissioner Duane Lewis also spent a second straight day in town, and mostly on the phone, troubleshooting 11th-hour issues in the exchange between a not-yet-named new owner and financially troubled Club 9 Sports, which took over ownership prior to the 2011-12.
All parties declined comment on the negotiations, however one of the known issues is the nearly $400,000 debt left behind by North Carolina-based Club 9.
"I'm glad we don't have the home opener for another (week) so we have time to focus on those details," Lewis said.
One detail taken care of was Lewis and the CHL confirming the feeling of many Thursday evening, announcing the expected cancellation to the Mallards' trip to Wichita.The Tulsa Oilers, the closest CHL foe to Wichita, are replacing the Mallards tonight. The Oilers originally were idle and already scheduled to play Saturday in Wichita.
An adjustment to the CHL schedule, to compensate for the change, will be announced at a later date, the league office said.
"It's a smart, logical move. I still don't have enough players to play," said Ruskowski, who had 12 skaters and two goalies in the two 90-minute workouts Thursday."The league says you have to have 14 players (including a goalie to start a game). I still don't have my full team in here, and we don't have a bus service to go there. It's just common sense to say, let's give these poor son of a guns another week to get things organized."
Unfortunately, Ruskowski said, the Mallards don't have ice-time available today at Moline's i wireless Center because of a children's show.Instead, Ruskowski will give a chalk talk, detailing systems on the dry-erase board in the team's locker room, after working in the gym together.
"We want practice, and we need practice," Ruskowski said. "(This reprieve is) going to give us more time on the ice (this weekend).It's going to give me more chances to see the players. I can already see now the guys that are going to be here, and the ones that are not, just by how they practice."
Of the skaters in camp so far, Ruskowski is most pleased with downstate Illinoisan Eddie Effinger. His goalies, John Murray and Joe Palmer also have impressed.
"I think we'll be very competitive. But we have to get it all together," Ruskowski said. "If we're playing next Friday, I definitely have to have (the Canadians) on the ice by Sunday or Monday for sure. Maybe (today). But I've heard that for the last month-and-a-half, it seems."
Ruskowski has heard from a variety of agents. The veteran coach, one of the winningest in the CHL's 21 seasons, also has "three or four" free agents in mind, that he'd like to add to the Mallards roster.
"But I'm not bringing anybody else in until I know this is a stable situation," Ruskowski said. "I've also got guys committed to me who haven't gone anywhere. They're committed to this organization, so I'm giving them the best opportunity of making this team before I bring anybody else in."