I really hate to get involved in rumor mongering, especially when it comes to the business side of hockey. That's why I've avoided posting about the reported cuts coming in the Lightning's hockey operations budget that are slated to occur this summer. I do, however, think it's important to talk about yesterday's story by Erik Erlendsson in the Trib which suggests the Lightning may be looking to sell their stake in the Johnstown Chiefs. Faced with declining attendance, a small and aging arena and a market which doesn't boast much in the way of large corporate benefactors, I have little doubt that Johnstown is losing money at a relatively large rate for an ECHL franchise and that, as such, PS&E may very well be looking to divest themselves of their stake in the team. There is, after all, a healthy chance the Chiefs franchise may have to move in the near future and rumors are swirling that decision may have already been made. Then again, Erlendsson also points out the Lightning may choose to buy the Chiefs franchise outright and move the team to a larger market.
The fiscal uncertainty of the Chiefs franchise unfortunately comes in the first year of the Lightning's new approach toward actively operating the organization's developmental apparatus not only at the "AAA" level in the AHL but also at the "AA" level down in the ECHL. The project has had mixed results to this point, but I hope the Lightning don't abandon the idea altogether. The new philosophy, in my view, has a lot of merit and deserves more time even if the Lightning do have to sell their stake in the Chiefs and possibly sign on with a different ECHL affiliate.