Don't expect the AHL to throw a wrench into the Edmonton Oilers' pursuit of a WHL franchise by voting down their application to suspend operation of the AHL Road Runners.
AHL president Dave Andrews, a key figure in helping the Oilers relocate their top farm team from Toronto last summer, insisted yesterday his league won't throw up roadblocks now that the Oilers want out. Governors will convene by way of a conference call June 16 to vote on the Oilers application.
"I'd anticipate the board will approve their request," Andrews said.
"We're not in the habit of forcing people to play. We'll work closely with the Oilers to reactivate their franchise and get it going in another market."
The conference call comes a day after the WHL meets in Calgary June 14-15, when the possibility of expansion to 22 teams for 2006-07 will be discussed.
"I understand the business decision the Oilers made," Andrews said.
"They've been good partners in this league a long time. The calibre of this league, being as close as it is to the NHL, isn't a good fit in the same building. The business case for keeping the AHL there just isn't very good."
IT SAYS HERE: Don't be surprised if the Oilers end up sending prospects to two AHL teams in 2005-06 as a stop-gap measure.
The Oilers are negotiating with the Montreal Canadiens about loaning players to the Hamilton Bulldogs and with the Dallas Stars about placing players in Des Moines.
What's out is the possibility the Oilers will open up shop in another city on their own this coming season.
In the long term, 2006-07, Kansas City is a possibility.
TAKE THIS AND THAT TOO: So, wrestler John Cena pandered to the crowd and wore a Wayne Gretzky jersey when the circus, otherwise known as WWE Smackdown!, was at Rexall Place last week? OK, John. Name five Oilers players from the 2003-04 team ... Glen Carriere, who is promoting the all-women's June 18 boxing card at the Shaw Conference Centre, will have Mia (the Knockout) St. John as the colour commentator. On the topic of her posing in Playboy in 1999, Carriere said St. John insisted her photos be taken wearing boxing gear to make the point she's first and foremost a professional boxer. Right. Nothing says, "I'm a legit prize fighter" like a great set of boxing gloves ... Janne Niinimaa was in town last week. The former Oiler was sporting new tattoos (a devil on one shoulder, an angel on the other) and a fresh incision on his knee from some off-season surgery ... Here's hoping Oilers goaltending coach Pete Peeters won't be limited to two minutes for his acceptance speech when he's inducted into the Edmonton Sports Hall of Fame. That's not enough time for the former Vezina Trophy winner to say "thank you" ... Esks receiver Ed Hervey is a gold mine for reporters. Hervey says what he means. Best of all, Hervey does so when the notepads are open.
WHILE I'M AT IT: The Oilers decided to retain coach Geoff Ward before the decision to suspend operations was made. So they'll try to find a place for him and assistant coach Kelly Buchberger ... Joe Paterson could end up as a scout ... One way or another, the team has to keep equipment man Chris (Sliver) Delorey, who is as loyal an employee as they have ... The Oilers have agreed to a one-year extension with ECHL affiliate Greenville.