Chicago Blackhawks expected to bid on purchase of Rockford IceHogs

The first step to sell the Rockford IceHogs was approved by the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority Board on Wednesday.
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 6:42 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The top hockey team in the state of Illinois could become the owner of the top hockey team in the forest city as the IceHogs are up for sale.

“We’ve had great conversations with the Blackhawks,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said.

Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment board members officially file a request for proposal, the first step in potential new or part ownership of the team. The move doesn’t mean the city wants the team to leave, in fact, officials believe it’s the best hope to keep them thriving in Rockford.

“We see this as an opportunity to ensure that hockey is here for 10 to 15 years guaranteed and we’re not going to agree to anything else,” RAVE Board Chairperson Craig Thomas said.

Rockford fans are used to high-quality hockey at the BMO Harris Bank Center and the IceHogs current owners say they’re doing everything to secure more faceoffs, saves, and goals for years to come.

“Before COVID-19 hit we started discussions with the Blackhawks about how do we ensure a long term relationship with them,” Thomas said.

Currently, the team is owned by the City of Rockford, and run by RAVE. The request for proposal allows other groups to put a bid in to own the IceHogs, many believe the best suiter is the team’s current NHL partner.

“The Blackhawks have expressed an interest not only to continue to do what they’re doing here in Rockford but to be a greater presence in Rockford and that’s extremely exciting,” Thomas said.

If the Hawks take control they would oversee all hockey operations, but RAVE would still run the BMO. A facility that could be in for upgrades through the sale.

“The Blackhawks have made it clear they wanted BMO renovated and it’d be very difficult for the City of Rockford to probably handle that amount of money on its own and so it’s reached out to the state to see what can be done,” Sen. Steve Stadelman said.

“You walk into the BMO today and It looks like my father built it and he did back in the early 80′s we need to bring it back up to today’s standards,” McNamara said.

Thomas says fans of the IceHogs should be excited, it could mean a strong professional presence in Rockford, but the fan experience is something Thomas hopes will never change.

“To the patron, I don’t think it’s going to look any different when you come to a game,” Thomas said.

Thomas said the sale would not include the BMO Harris Bank Center, but it could bring renovations to the arena to spruce it up for IceHogs games, and other popular attractions.

The request for proposal will post in the coming days. Thomas expects to have multiple bids to purchase the team in the coming weeks.

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