Since the 2001-2002 season ended, questions surrounded the future of the Mississippi Sea Wolves. The team's uncertainty took its toll on hockey fans and hockey merchants like Dan Hunter.
"It's been very difficult trying to figure out what to order, when to order it, how much to order," Hunter said.
Because hockey's future on the Coast was up in the air, Hunter didn't order any hockey equipment. He figured customers wouldn't need skates, sticks or gloves until they knew the Sea Wolves were coming back to the Coliseum.
The team's return became official at a news conference.
"Time to start ordering and get fired up for hockey again," Hunter said. "I'm excited about it."
So were the Sea Wolves season ticket holders who attended the news conference and heard for themselves that Mississippi will make another run at a Kelly Cup championship. One fan was wearing a Sea Wolves cap. He said he was "pleased more so than I can ever say." One woman wore her Sea Wolves sweater to the announcement.
"I think this is really going to be great for the season ticket holders," she thought. "These people have really worked hard putting this together."
In the inaugural season of Sea Wolves hockey, attendance averaged 6,659 fans a game. Six years later, fewer than 2,200 people came to the Wolves Den for Mississippi's final home playoff game. So, the new management team knows it must try to do what Jean Gagnon couldn't. It must come up with a way to fill seats again.
Tom Brosig spoke for the Wolfpack group at the news conference.
"This Sea Wolves team has to be adopted by a greater range of people on the coast," he said. "It can't be just the core group of fans that have been so loyal the last five years."
One way the new Wolfpack ownership group will do that is by lowering season ticket prices as much as $60. Other marketing ideas will be announced later.
Outgoing Sea Wolves boss Jean Gagnon wasn't at the news conference. Instead, he was in Las Vegas at the ECHL meetings.
In a phone conversation with WLOX News, Gagnon said giving up control of the Sea Wolves was very difficult. But he felt this deal was the best thing that could happen to the organization. Gagnon said he really thinks local ownership will make the Sea Wolves a success.