"Closing Time, open all the doors and let you out into the world, closing time, turn all the lights on over every boy and every girl, closing time, one last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer, closing time, you don't have to go home but you can't stay here," are the lyrics of the Twin Cities'-based band Semisonic. The lyrics are sadly appropriate as news broke on Thursday that the Houston Aeros are moving to Des Moines next season where they will become the Iowa Wild. The move is a slap to the face of Houston Aeros fans who have been one of the best fanbases in the NHL. They are 7th in the AHL in attendence, averaging 6,793 fans per game. So the move certainly was not about a lack of fan support. That makes it that much more difficult for Aeros' fans to understand. Especially when you consider the lack of success Des Moines had with AHL clubs in the failed Iowa Stars and Iowa Chops respectively. Hopefully, with a team that has some regional ties they will connect better with the locals. On Friday, the Aeros clinched a playoff spot with a 3-2 win over in-state rival the Texas Stars but its tough not to empathize with the locals. I'm sure the good news is bittersweet.
Houston's departure will end a long and storied era of professional hockey in America's 4th largest city. A history that goes back to 1965 with the Central Hockey League's Houston Apollos which lasted until 1969. After a short hiatus professional hockey returned in 1972 with the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. This was the team that Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe bulit as he came out of retirement in order to play with his two sons Mark and Marty. Howe scored 121 goals and 369 points in four seasons with Aeros (1973-1977) leading Houston to win consecutive WHA Championships in 1974 and 1975. As the WHA fizzled out, pro hockey in Houston would go into hibernation for a while before returning again with the International Hockey League in 1994 featuring its bomber logo with a B-23 Dragon WWII-era bomber and one of the better logos in minor league hockey using art deco lettering. The Aeros have stayed fairly competitive throughout the last 19 years as they won a Turner Cup in 1998-99 and then joined the American Hockey League in 2001 and they would win the Calder Cup in 2002-2003. This article will do its best to explain why the move is ocurring while paying respect to the great relationship that was and continues to be between the team and its great fanbase.
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