2003 - 2004
The Greater Greensboro Observer
July 27, 2004
Plug finally Pulled on Generals
By Jim McNally
Call it a mercy killing. After five tortured seasons, the Greensboro Generals are no more.
Both the ECHL and Greensboro Coliseum Director Mart Brown released statements on the same day last week with essentially the same message a doctor delivers to the aggrieved but still hopeful loved ones of a long-ill patient; we tried to save them but there was nothing we could do.
Actually, it was more like pulling the plug on the apparatus that was keeping the team alive. When the Greensboro City Council voted earlier in the month to exclude any financial assistance to the team, the switch on the life-support system was essentially flipped. It was then a matter of a mad scramble to find a donor - in the form of some well-off folks with nothing better to do with their resources than buy a team that has been a money pit for half a decade - and none could be found before the league's extended deadline had come and gone.
The Generals' last two years had been on borrowed time. Two seasons ago, principal owner and founder Art Donaldson had thrown up his hands and pleaded for help from local businesspeople. He got it from former owner Bill Black, businessman Don Brady and some others.
But the relieving effects of the additional cash were ephemeral. The new part-owners helped the team secure miracle-working coach Rick Adduono, who completely revamped the team and its playing style, from bully to finesse, and the team made the playoffs his first year and missed them by one point this past season.
Adduono's first year was a major success in the wins-and-loss department - indeed, the turnaround from the year before was one of the biggest in ECHL history but, despite the Generals' first (and only) trip to the playoffs, the team was still losing money. The wins did little to activate the fans and the turnstiles were still not turning.
Generals' owners had all but made the decision to fold operations prior to the 2003-04 season when Brown persuaded the City Council to keep the team alive for the purpose of maintaining an anchor attraction at the Coliseum.
The council became convinced that opening up all of those home-game dates at the coliseum would not serve the city well and many feared it might have negatively impacted the securing of other acts and events at the facility So, by a unanimous vote, Adduono and a handful of other front-office personnel became city employees for a year.
"The decision was never meant to be one that put the city of Greensboro in the hockey business," councilmember Tom Phillips said last month when the issue of keeping the team on the city payroll was discussed. "It was meant to be a temporary solution until ownership could be found."
This time City Council seemed to have lost its fear of leaving the building vacant through much of the winter.
"We won't know how losing the team will affect the coliseum until we have lost the team," Phillips said.
Brown said he was in discussions with three different groups who expressed varying degrees of interest in purchasing the team. Among those groups was one representing the New York Rangers of the NHL, who had sights on the team as prime farm club.
"Unfortunately, however, our exhaustive efforts to secure an ownership group were ultimately unsuccessful," Brown said in his statement.
Brown added that, while it appears unlikely that any pucks will be dropped on coliseum ice this upcoming year, he is hopeful about hockey coming back to the Gate City.
"The Greensboro Coliseum will continue to work with the aforementioned local potential ownership group to assist in its efforts to bring ECHL hockey back to Greensboro in the near future," he said.
ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna, who has ties to Greensboro hockey as an executive with the former American Hockey League Monarchs, said he regretted seeing the team go. McKenna was also optimistic about Greensboro securing another FICHL team soon.
"The ECHL would like to thank the city of Greensboro for its operation of the Generals (last year) and the Greensboro Coliseum for its support of the ECHL for so many seasons," McKenna said in a statement. "We look forward to returning in the future with a strong ownership group to provide the fans of Greensboro with ECHL hockey."
The Generals were the fourth different franchise to call Greensboro home in the last 15 years. They succeeded the ECHL Monarchs, the AHL Monarchs, and the NHL Carolina Hurricanes.