PLYMOUTH (WWJ) — The owner of Metro Detroit’s minor league hockey team, the Plymouth Whalers, said he doesn’t want to, but is threatening to move the Ontario Hockey League team if attendance doesn’t pick up.
Peter Karmanos, who also owns the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes and founded the Compuware Corporation, said that he’s getting tired of all the empty seats at Plymouth’s Compuware Arena and if he can’t get more bodies in the seats, the Whalers may have to move.
“Sooner or later, we have to do something,” Karmanos said.
The Whalers, who have made the OHL playoffs 23 years in a row, averaged just 2,478 fans per home game this past season in the 3,504 seat arena, ranking 19th out of the league’s 20 teams.
The Whalers are coming off of their worst season in franchise history, posting a 28-33 record and losing in the first round of the playoffs — four games to one — to the Guelph Storm.
Flint and Hamilton, Ontario, have been mentioned as possible new homes for the Whalers.
Karmanos, after trying to purchase the Detroit Red Wings from Mike Illitch, bought the Detroit Junior Red Wings instead, and moved the team to play at the Oak Park Ice Arena and the Palace of Auburn Hill in the early 90s before Compuware Arena opened in 1996 and the team’s identity changed.
On Friday, Karmanos and the Whalers announced organizational changes including naming Don Elland the team’s new head coach. Mike Velluci, recently named Assistant General Manager and Director of Hockey Operations of the Carolina Hurricanes, will remain the team’s Governor.