Friday, December 18, 2009

Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir Sees Expansion To KC Within The Next Five Years

Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated has a recent column answering reader mail. In one answer, he pretty much guarantee(s) (expansion is) going to happen, and probably within five years. Muirs best bets for expansion are Toronto/Southwestern Ontario and Kansas City.

As Muir says earlier in the same answer, Gary Bettman has made it clear that he will fight tooth and nail to prevent teams from relocating.* So in spite of the existence of several teams on shaky footing, the prospects for Kansas City (or anywhere else) gaining a relocated team in the at-all near future seem slim at best. And Im not as optimistic as Muir is for our chances at an expansion team. But it is always nice to read that someone in the know thinks we still have a real shot.

*Say what you want about Bettman defending his current markets so staunchly, but I sure wish the league would have been willing back in 1976 to go to bat for Kansas City to allow us more time to develop as an NHL market. As Ive reported before, the league would have even allowed the Scouts to fold in the middle of a season if it came to that. Maybe we still have the Scouts if the league would have been willing to help in the slightest.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oilers’ AHL Affiliate Reportedly To Oklahoma City...Where Is KC?

According to NewsOK.com, Oklahoma City is close to officially becoming the home of the Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate next season. I have to ask again: Why is Kansas City seemingly not even in the conversation for an AHL team? Oklahoma City is roughly 61% of the size of Kansas City. As Ive written here before, (according to my rudimentary research) only three current AHL markets are bigger than Kansas City. And unlike the NHL, there seems to actually be teams for the takingif only AEG were interested.

Most notably, the St. Louis Blues affiliate could be available, with the Peoria Rivermens current lease set to expire after the current season. On October 1st, the Peoria Journal Star even claimed that there are rumblings about the Rivermen moving to Kansas City in 2010. But a November 9th column said negotiations are ongoing to keep the Rivermen in Peoria, and that a multi-year deal is expected. Kansas City may not be a hockey hotbed, but something tells me we could do better than Peorias 4,000 fans a game. Im not sure there could be a better fit for hockey in Kansas City than the Blues top farm team.

It is possible that AEG and the Sprint Center are looking into the AHL for Kansas City. But its hard to imagine that they are...surely the press would catch wind of it, and aside from the vague rumblings mentioned above, there seems to be zero evidence of it, and plenty of statements that they are specifically targeting the NHL.

Perhaps they would view an AHL team in the Sprint Center as a failure, given that the goal has always been the NHL. But isnt a complete lack of a sports tenant the real failure? Do they think an AHL team would block the way for an NHL team? Seems to me the AHL could actually help the cause by growing the base of hockey fans. Doesnt Kansas City deserve to at least be in the conversation?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scouts On-Ice Notes: March—April, 1976

There was a lot going on with the Scouts off the ice late in the ’75-’76 season, so I’m going to split up my notes with this (mostly) on-ice report and an off-ice report later.

• “Scouts Booster Club dinner Sunday at Crown Center was a big success. Boosters presented (Wilf) Paiement with a pair of fur-trimmed bluejeans to go with his fur coat” (which he had been awarded for his hat trick earlier in the year). (3/3/76 Star)

• How far apart where the lowly Scouts and the mighty Flyers? When Flyer captain Bobby Clarke was asked how his team psyched themselves up for their game against the Scouts on March 7th, he responded, “You don’t really. You get bored. We had lots of shots but we weren’t really pushing that hard. Most of the time we were pushing the puck around.” (3/8/76 Times) The Scouts got 23 shots off in the game; the Flyers had 22 after one period.


• On March 16th, the Scouts hosted the Black Hawks. Guy Charron netted his 27th goal of the year, surpassing the team mark of 26 that Wilf Paiement and Simon Nolet had set the previous season. But the Scouts dropped the game 3-6, which was their 16th straight game without a victory, tying the team record. Unfortunately for the Scouts, the only end to this winless stretch would be the end of the season, 11 games later. Scout Robin Burns turned into an insane poet after the Black Hawks game: “An entanglement of troubles. A spontaneous nurturing of the fruits of disappointment. A demented departure from the reality of hockey.” (3/17 Times)

• Ordinarily, a stretch like that would prompt roster moves of some sort in an attempt to shake things up. But according to an article in the September, 1976 issue of Kansas City magazine, team president Edwin Thompson “refused to allow any player moves as the team went winless in the last 27 games of its history because it would have cost money to pay the moving expenses of young players being called up from the minors.”

• On March 20th, all tickets were priced at $2 for a game against the Seals at Kemper. 16,219 fans showed up, easily the biggest crowd to see a Scouts home game. Kansas City was up 2-0 after two periods, but of course couldn’t hold on, and the big crowd had to settle for a 2-2 tie.

• Two nights later, the Scouts visited the Capitals. This was a prime chance to stop the winless streak. Things were looking good as the Scouts jumped to a 4-0 lead in the second, and lead 5-2 heading into the third. This being the ’75-’76 Scouts, they allowed 3 third period goals and ended up with a 5-5 tie. “Jesus Christ and the disciples couldn’t help this team,” Steve Durbano said after the game. “This team stinks.” (3/24 Times) After the season was over, goalie Denis Herron pointed to this game as the nadir of an extremely low season. It was the last point the Scouts would ever earn.

• After the 21st straight game without a win on March 24th, Randy Rota said, “You wake up in the morning and think that this is the day it breaks. Only it never does. Pretty soon you stop thinking that. Pretty soon you start losing your personal pride.” And Dave Hudson: “You think if you keep after it, it’s gotta break. Only there’s not much time left now.” (3/25 Star) To add injury to insult, Denis Herron got his head stepped on while allowing a goal that night, and was knocked out.


• The Scouts had the misfortune of playing the Canadiens on March 27th, and for the second straight year, Guy Lafleur scored his 50th goal against Herron and the Scouts in Montreal. For good measure, he added number 51 later in the game as the Habs breezed to an 8-2 victory.

• On March 28th, the Scouts lost to the New York Rangers and a young goalie named Doug Soetaert making his third NHL start. After his playing days, Soetart would go on to spend one year as coach and ten years as GM of the IHL Kansas City Blades.


• The last home game in Scouts history came on March 30th against the Los Angeles Kings. Before the game, Herron was named as team MVP, as voted on by his teammates. “Gary Bergman was named top defenseman, Guy Charron was cited for being named the top star of the game most often during the season and Gary Croteau was honored for his dedication, hard work and leadership both on and off the ice.” (3/31 Star) In the game, the Scouts exploded for six goals in the first two periods and had a 6-5 lead heading into the final frame…but once again couldn’t hold, and lost 6-8. The Scouts much too brief run at Kemper Arena went out with a bang, as the 14 goals added up to the highest scoring game in Kemper history. 7,123 fans witnessed the end of the Scouts in Kansas City. Gary Croteau scored the last Scouts goal in Kansas City, while King Tom Williams potted the last goal overall.

• The miserable band of Scouts still had three road games to play. Earlier in the season, the Capitals had set a new mark in NHL futility by going winless in a record 25 straight games. The loss to the Kings at home was number 24 in a row without a win for the Scouts. The Scouts tied the record with a loss in Chicago on March 31st, then made it their own with losses in Los Angeles and Vancouver on April 3rd and 4th to stretch it to an impressive 27. Who knows how long they could have gone had the season not come to a merciful end. (The Colorado Rockies snapped the franchise’s streak by winning their first ever game.) Craig Patrick netted the final goal in Scouts history.

• Herron tried to make some sense of the team’s collapse over the final half of the season: “We change the coach and we change the system from top to bottom. We played tight hockey, man-for-man, with Bep. With Bush we’re more open now. We can’t play open, because nobody scores.” (4/5 Star) Gary Bergman allowed that the off-ice issues hurt their performance on the ice: “Sure, it takes your mind off hockey. Between the talk about the team moving and all the trouble in the front office…that’s been more of the topic of conversation with the players than trying to figure out what’s wrong with the team.” (4/5 Star) Injury trouble didn’t help, especially Wilf Paiement missing the last six weeks of the season. The record 27 games without a win stood until the ’80-’81 Winnipeg Jets took the Scouts off the hook by running up a 30 game streak.

• The Scouts record over March and two games in April was 0-15-2 (.059). The seven home games had an average announced attendance of 8,286.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Numbers From 1975-76

Wilf Paiement

Here are some numbers from the Scouts second season (sourced from Hockey-Reference.com). Numbers in parentheses are league rank, out of 18 teams:

Record: 12-56-12, .225 (17)
Home record: 8-24-8, .300
Road record: 4-32-4, .150

Goals for: 190 (18)
Goals against: 351 (17)

Goals per game: 2.38
Goals against per game: 4.39

Power play goals for: 46 (18)
Power play percentage: 13.07% (18)

Power play goals against: 80 (14)
Penalty kill percentage: 72.88% (18)

Short-handed goals for: 2 (T-16)
Short-handed goals against: 17 (18)
(Special teams went from being a small bright spot in
74-75 to a disaster in 75-76.)

PIM: 984 (12)
(Huge increase from 744 the previous year.)

Times shut-out: 5
Shut-outs: 0
(The Scouts were shut-out 17 times in their history, and never shut-out an opponent.)

Team leaders:

Goals
27 Guy Charron
21 Wilf Paiement
19 Gary Croteau

Assists
44 Guy Charron
33 Gary Bergman
22 Wilf Paiement

Points
71 Guy Charron
43 Wilf Paiement
38 Gary Bergman

Points-per-game:
.910 Guy Charron
.754 Wilf Paiement
.615 Chuck Arnason

PIM:
209 Steve Durbano
121 Wilf Paiement
112 Richard Lemieux
(Durbano only spent 37 games as a Scout, which means he averaged a mind-boggling 5.65 PIM/game)

Games played:
80 Craig Patrick
79 Gary Croteau
78 Guy Charron & Robin Burns

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Wang Exploring All Options...In The New York Area

Things sure have been quiet on the Islanders front ever since owner Charles Wang claimed he'd be "exploring all options" as of October 3rd. Chris Botta of the Islanders Point Blank blog has an informative post today however. The pertinent quote:

"Although Wang is flattered by the interest from other communities, he has little desire to move the team away from Nassau County — so much so that he has yet to rigorously pursue his options.

And finally, know this:

Brooklyn is very much in play.

Queens is very much in play, although it’s a close second to Brooklyn now.

Suffolk is not a serious option.

The Islanders will not leave the New York metropolitan area during this generation or the next one."

Monday, November 30, 2009

8,218: Scouts Final Attendance Numbers

1974-75 season: 8,529 (64% of league average (13,224))
1975-76 season: 7,907 (63% of league average (12,644))

Overall average: 8,218 (64% of league average (12,934))

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Best Scouts Photo

Scouts action photos are few and far between, at least in comparison to the media overload that were accustomed to now. (Although somewhere in a Kansas City Star storage room there has to be a treasure trove of shots...) So coming across this beauty recently was a treat:

The Bruin in the middle is of course Bobby Orr. Peter McDuffe is recognizable as the Scouts goalie, which means the picture had to have been taken on October 27, 1974. McDuffe was with the Scouts for the duration of the ’74-’75 season only, and the Scouts played in Boston just twice that year. In the other game, Denis Herron manned the Scouts net (pulling off an unlikely 3-2 win). The October 27th game from the picture was just the eighth Scouts regular season game, and came at the end of the eight-game road trip to kick off the franchise, meaning they still hadn’t played a home game or enjoyed a win. The exhausted Scouts lost that night 2-8, and finally got to head to Kansas City afterwards. The two Scouts defensemen pictured are Mike Baumgartner (on the left) and Jim McElmury. The two Minnesotans have the unenviable task of trying to contain Orrs Bruins. The puck denting the twine tells the story of how that worked out.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Scouts Notes: February 1976

• The Scouts started February, 1976 with three days off, which served as a chance for them to get to know their new head coach, Eddie Bush, a little better. Joe McGuff had this introduction in the February 2nd Star:

• On the 4th appeared the last article in which team president Ed Thompson tried to put a happy face on the shaky status of the Scouts. He claimed that “we (the team ownership group) knew it would be five years before we had the attendance we needed. This year is less than what we hoped for. But the partners are still enthused and so am I.” (2/4/76 Star) Thompson was either lying or something radically changed in the following week.

• On the ice, the month opened at home against the Blues on the 4th. 5,938 came out on poster night to see the two Missouri clubs skate to a 3-3 tie. It was the second straight tie for the Scouts, after having lost their previous 14.

• It was announced on the 6th that forward Henry Boucha had finally signed with the Scouts. It was well known that Boucha had been trying to get out of his contract with the WHA St. Paul Fighting Saints, and that the Scouts had acquired his NHL rights from the North Stars in November ’74.

Boucha had a fairly short but colorful career. A Chippewa Native American from Warroad, Minnesota, he spent much of 1969—72 playing on the United States National and Olympic teams, most notably at the 1972 Olympics. He had six points in six Olympic games on the way to earning a silver medal. Boucha put up big numbers throughout his tenure with the U.S. team, and earned induction in the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995. Boucha went on to play for the Red Wings and North Stars between ’72—’75. In January of ’75, Boucha was on the receiving end of one of the uglier incidents in NHL history. Michael Smith describes it thusly in his essay “What Is Sports Violence?” in the book Sports Ethics:
“…an altercation occurred between David Forbes of the Boston Bruins and Henry Boucha of the Minnesota North Stars. Both players were sent to the penalty box, where Forbes repeatedly threatened Boucha verbally. As they left the box at the expiration of the penalties…Forbes skated up behind Boucha and struck him with the butt end of his stick just above the right eye. Boucha fell to the ice stunned and bleeding (with a badly damaged eye, it turned out). Forbes jumped on him, punched him in the back of the head, then grabbing him by the hair, proceeded to pound his head into the ice.”
Boucha’s eyesight never fully recovered. He managed to comeback with the Fighting Saints and Scouts in ’75-‘76, but retired after just nine games with the Colorado Rockies in 1976. He received an undisclosed settlement in a lawsuit he brought against Forbes, the Bruins and the NHL. Boucha is one of the more recognizable players in NHL history thanks to the bright headbands he wore on the ice.

• On the 7th, Boucha made his debut as the Scouts hosted the Capitals. As poorly as the season had gone for the Scouts, they still had over twice as many wins as the Caps at this point (11 to 5). So this was a good opportunity to snap their 16 game winless streak, and the Scouts took advantage, downing the Caps 5-1. Boucha chipped in with an assist (though Star writer Steve Marantz said “his play otherwise generally reflected his 10-day layoff” 2/8/76 Star).

Things were looking up a bit, as this was the third straight game without a loss. With 27 games remaining on the season and no strong implication that the Scouts wouldn’t be returning to Kansas City the next season, Scouts players and fans had no way to expect or know that this would be the
last victory in Scouts history.

• The truth about how dire the Scouts situation was started to become public on the 10
th with a Joe McGuff column, “Scouts Are Feeling Financial Pinch,” in which McGuff didn’t yet have specifics, but wrote, “a crisis has developed.” On the 12th, the severity was coming into clearer focus in the below, highly recommended article from McGuff. It was announced by team president Thompson that 8,000 season tickets would have to be sold for the following season for the Scouts to continue to operate—a near-impossible number seeing as fewer than 4,000 were sold for ’75-’76.

• Edwin Thompson was not sole owner of the Scouts. In fact, he wasn’t even the majority owner. From a Steve Marantz column on the 12th: “Most of the investors, who number approximately 30, are from the area…The largest single stockholder, however, is Murray Newman, an Omaha businessman, who holds about 24 per cent of the total issue.” As president of the club, Thompson became the face of Scouts ownership, while the others stayed largely anonymous and behind the scenes.

• In the immediate aftershocks of all the terrible financial news, the Scouts got back on the ice on the 12
th as hosts to the Islanders. How did Kansas City hockey fans respond to the threat of losing the Scouts? They stayed away in droves. Just 5,837 showed up to watch the Scouts tie the Islanders 2-2. Incredibly, it was their fourth straight game without a loss (1-0-3), despite being in the midst of their 1-35-8 finish. From Steve Marantz’s game summary: “Even as the Scouts make steady strides on the ice, it has become more apparent to everybody that the problem now lies elsewhere… The audience ranked among the smallest three this season. ‘It was a great game to watch,’ said Robin Burns, Scouts’ left wing. ‘But where was everybody?’”

• It’s partly laziness on my part and partly a tribute to the fine writing of McGuff that I’m just going to reprint a couple of his columns in full rather than try to summarize them for you. They deal with the crisis of survival facing the Scouts at the time, and he explains it much better than I could:



• This group of four letters to the editor from the February 22nd Star provide a sample of what some Kansas Citians were thinking about the Scouts crisis:

• A McGuff column on the 26th (“Scouts Are Now Scrambling Just For Survival”) contains a couple of interesting nuggets: The NBA Kansas City Kings, co-tenants of Kemper Arena, had expressed an interest in purchasing the Scouts. This quote drives home just how bad things had gotten for the Scouts: “Adding to the confusion surrounding the hockey operation are persistent reports that the team is so close to bankruptcy that it might not be able to continue beyond Monday, when the next player payroll comes due. The National Hockey League reportedly has an emergency plan to proceed with 17 teams should the Scouts be unable to finish their schedule.” Crikey!

• On the 27th came a story in the Star that the Scouts were two months behind on payments to the city for Kemper Arena rental fees amounting to $65,000. The next morning’s Times revealed that the Scouts would indeed meet the next payday. Edwin Thompson said:

“The crisis certainly hasn’t changed. Our partners and myself are making the payroll as we have the last few, out of our pockets, certainly not from gate receipts. We are willing to do this as long as we see some hope, some light that the season ticket drive will get off to a successful start. So far we are encouraged by the Mayor and civic leaders who are participating in the drive and hopefully it will go along as planned. There isn’t anyone in Kansas City that is more enthusiastic and will give this franchise as much support as myself and the partners have and will continue to do so. As you know we have $5-million in this venture and this certainly isn’t the end. We want to know that somewhere along the line we have a chance to get even.”
In the same paper was an article stating the NHL would not be giving the Scouts any financial aid, even if it meant the Scouts couldn’t finish out the current season. “We have an emergency plan to finish the schedule in case Kansas City folds,” said president Clarence Campbell. The league had recently propped up the Pittsburgh Penguins financially, but Campbell said they didn’t “want to go through the same financial headaches” again. Kansas City was on its own.

• Back on the ice, the Scouts closed out the month with what were apparently three well-played games, particularly by goalie Denis Herron. The stretch consisted of a 3-1 loss to the Canadiens and ties with the Islanders and Sabres. The point against the Sabres was the only one the Scouts would ever gain from Buffalo in eight meetings. Herron seemed to slump a bit after returning from the kidney stone he suffered in January
, but garnered immense praise from opposing players and the press for his play at the end of February.

• The Scouts ended the miserable month with a 1-6-5 (.292) record, and an average of 7,329 fans at the nine home games.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wang Abandoning Light House?

According to the Long Island Press, Islanders owner Charles Wang has quietly abandoned his Light House development plan that included a new home for the Islanders. Sean Leahy on Puck Daddy questions whether it might be just another political move in his attempt to get the project approved; seems to me if that were the case, Wang would be stating this publicly. But so far, Islanders brass has been completely mum.

I still would expect Wang to explore other Long Island-area options before considering selling or relocating the team.

Update: 19 hours after the story, Wang got around to denying it. Long Island Press stands by it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scouts ’74-’75 Media Guide

I finally scored a 74-75 media guide/yearbook on eBay recently. They rarely show up, and the ones that Ive seen have gone for ridiculous amounts ($30+), but I managed to get mine for $6. Im glad I didn't overpay for it, because theres not a lot to it. The Scouts had of course not yet played a game when the guide was put out, so there was not much to write about and no action photographs. (The photos in the 75-76 guide a make it a much more interesting artifact.)

The guide is mostly made up of head shots of front office staff and players, along with brief bios. A couple of highlights are the below letter from Scouts owner/president Edwin Thompson and his bio page.


And for whatever its worth, I learned that the Scouts Port Huron, Michigan training camps took place at The McMorran Arena, which is in use today as the home of the CHL Port Huron Hawks.


Not an especially exciting piece of Scouts history, but there is not exactly a wealth of Scouts relics to choose from. Just dont pay too much for it.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Isles vs. Kings Quick Hits VI

• Want to see the difference between crude and nuanced sports reporting? Compare and contrast Stan Fischler's take on the KC preseason game with Dominik's on Lighthouse Hockey:
Fischler: "With Kansas City proving itself a bust – a half-empty arena for an NHL exhibition – as a future NHL city, other towns must be considered."

Dominik: "
Attending the preseason game in Kansas City was quite fun, opened my eyes to a few things, and cemented my impression that gauging a marginal market's readiness for pro hockey by counting its skeptical fanbase's attendance at a meaningless preseason game between two distant teams is, simply, fool's play...I thought just under 10,000 on a Tuesday night was hardly "a miserable failure." That's not to say I think K.C. should have a team -- just that if you're arguing against it, there are far better reasons than an exhibition game."
Be sure to check out Dominik's full post on his experience.

• Charles Wang's October 3rd deadline for a definite answer on his Lighthouse Project has come and gone with nothing decided. As promised, he says he'll be "exploring all options" now, meaning he will at least listen to anyone interested in buying or relocating the team.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kings Sean O'Donnel Suspended For Actions In KC Game

In the second period last night, Sean O'Donnel of the Kings attacked Islander Matt Martin. I had no idea what preceded it, but something had obviously royally ticked off O'Donnel - he continued to attack Martin even after Martin was obviously hurt and had collapsed on the ice. Newsday suggested that Martin had high-sticked Drew Doughty to set off O'Donnel. The league didn't care for O'Donnel's goonery, and today slapped him with a suspension that ends after the Kings' first two regular season games.

Martin left the ice after the attack, but was back in the third period, and engaged in a long fight with Wayne Simmonds.

9,972 Just Got A Little Bigger

If preseason attendance numbers are going to be used as the gauge, I guess you could make the argument that Kansas City made a stronger showing for the Islanders last night than Long Island did tonight. The official attendance for the Islanders only preseason game at home and the home debut of John Tavares is 8,256. Arthur Staple at Newsday puts the actual attendance at just 4,000. (Seems like the NHL could and should regulate a way for "announced" attendance to be tied to actual attendance.)

Or, if you want to make KC's 9,972 sound a little smaller, you could point out that the average attendance in the other five preseason games played last night was 13,926. (One of those games was also played in a non-NHL market: the Lightning and Coyotes played in front of 7,281 in Everett, Washington.)

In any event, things don't appear to be going well for Charles Wang getting his Lighthouse Project approved by his deadline of October 3rd. Sounds like this is about to get really ugly, with Wang talking to any and all courters...will be interesting to see if KC will be a player or not. I have no doubt AEG and NHL21 will try to get Wang's ear...but if there's no owner for KC, it might be a short conversation. Maybe he'll surprise me, but I can't imagine Wang being interested in remaining owner of the team in a new market outside of the NY area.

Isles vs. Kings Review

The game: There was intensity to the action that rarely let up. The game was played as if it mattered; of course, for guys trying to make the team or make an impression, preseason games do matter. I could do without the many fights (though of course the crowd in general loved them), but the plethora of solid body checks was a thrill. Several of the goals were a result of pretty passing plays. The fans that bothered to show up where treated to what I love so much about hockey: the combination of skill and finesse with grit and physicality.

The Kings didn’t entirely dominate, but they certainly had the upper hand. LA sent a fairly strong group of players to the game, while the Islanders sent the B-squad. The most glaring difference was on special teams. The Kings took control of their power plays. When the Islanders went up a man, they could do little more than jump off-side, give up a shorty, or take a penalty themselves to put an end to their advantage. Wayne Simmonds, Teddy Purcell and Drew Doughty all stood out for the Kings, and not just because they were the goal scorers. It wasn’t as close as the 4-2 score indicates.

Kings netminder Jonathan Quick was good, but rarely tested. In net for the Isles was Nathan Lawson, after Dwayne Roloson took a shot in the neck during warmups. Lawson performed admirably considering he was left out to dry by his teammates for much of the night. He stood on his head during the 3rd period (plus got a little help from the crossbar), keeping the Isles in a game they otherwise didn’t deserve to be in.


My experience: Once again, the Sprint Center sparkled, and screamed out to host hockey much more often than once a year. I arrived just in time to catch warmups, and moved down to the glass behind the end the Islanders were skating on to take some pictures and be reminded how huge NHL players are when you’re right next to them. I somehow completely missed Roloson getting hit in the neck. A puck flew up and landed in the netting just behind the glass in the corner to my left, where there are no stands. I saw a guy knock it down with a shovel and quickly asked him to toss it to me—he did! I was psyched to get a small piece of the NHL in Kansas City. My night was already made before the game even began. Did you know there’s an official “practice puck” that is apparently used for warmups? I didn’t.


video

The attendance: 9,972 is the official number. Three quarters of the upper deck were curtained off. The lower bowl had empty spots. I don’t think attendance numbers at preseason games between teams KC has no rooting interest in should be a major factor in gauging us as an NHL market, but there just aren’t many other ways to judge it, so it takes on a falsely inflated importance. And a crowd that didn’t hit five figures was a disappointment. It’s amusing how you can spin the number any way you want; the AP recap says “9,972 showed up Tuesday night, so Kansas City seems to be ready (for a team).” Long Island’s Newsday meanwhile reported that KC reacted to the game with “one huge, collective yawn.”

I think what we saw last night was the small core of hockey die-hards in KC. Unfortunately, I don’t know that a secondary, more casual group of fans exist to augment the die-hards. I would love for KC to get a chance to find out if a large enough group of new fans could be created and sustained if we had a home team. At the same time, I can’t help but point out that a moderately sized base of passionate hockey fans would be a great start for an AHL team.

But the question for now is, do we deserve the chance to find out if we could grow those fans with an NHL team of our own? I’m blinded by my desire to have a team, and probably can’t answer objectively. But if I were fabulously wealthy, I’m not sure I’d be willing to take that chance. KC hockey fans are left to hope someone who is fabulously wealthy feels differently.

Linkage:

Kansas City Star report

PucKChaser recap

Lighthouse Hockey recap

From
Newsday:
Fans In Kansas City Show Little Interest In Isles
With Isles In KC, Big Game Is Lighthouse Hearing

Newsday reporter Jim Baumbach had some interesting Tweets from KC

Score sheet

Mayor's Manor draws some connections between LA & KC hockey

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Isles vs. Kings Quick Hits IV

(And in case my bosses see this, I am actually getting a little work done in between hitting "refresh" on hockey websites today!)

From The Rink: Kansas City Faces The Preseason Test

Kings.com preview (Had no idea that brothers faced each other in last year's game: D.J. King of the Blues and Dwight King of the Kings. There will be yet another brother matchup tonight, with Brett Westgarth of the Isles and Kevin Westgarth of the Kings.)

Kings Game Notes (Unfortunately still can't find the Kings lineup for tonight...These notes do however finally break the tension and reveal that Megan Simmons will be singing the National Anthem.)

Isles vs. Kings Quick Hits III

Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski chimes in on tonight's game with his usual even-handedness and insight. But best of all, he calls my blog "rather interesting"!

From Lighthouse Hockey: "Off To Kansas City For Islanders Hockey, Wee Wee"
Author Dominik enjoys my blog "for the perspective of those being tossed like pawns in the pro sports relocation game"!

Islanders line-up for tonight, per Newsday:

Forwards: Jon Sim, Josh Bailey, Greg Moore, Tony Romano, Trent Hunter, Jesse Joensuu, Tim Jackman, Michael Haley, Matt Martin, Nate Thompson, Jeff Tambellini, Tyler Haskins

Defenseman: Andy Sutton, Jack Hillen, Freddy Meyer, Bruno Gervais, Brett Westgarth, Dustin Kohn

Goalies: Dwayne Roloson, Nathan Lawson

Isles vs. Kings Quick Hits II

• Slightly altered story about the lack of Tavares from the Star: "Islanders Rookie Star Tavares Won't Be Coming To KC"

Newsday: "Kansas City Morning Skate"

Islanders.com game preview

Monday, September 21, 2009

Isles vs. Kings Quick Hits

From Newsday: Big Day For Isles: Game In KC, Zoning Hearing For Wang

Kings official website: Camp Update

Well, Shit

No Tavares.

On one hand, perhaps KC hockey fans should just be happy to get whatever we can as far as NHL action goes. But on the other hand, we're being used as a pawn by a fabulously rich owner in a political game that has nothing to do with us. So is it surprising that ticket sales are so weak that ticket prices have been slashed at the last minute?

Is sending Tavares - the one player with a little star power on either team - to KC so much to ask?

You can see why the Islanders are holding him out - thanks to some brilliant scheduling, the only Islanders home preseason game is the very night after the KC game. No way they're going to play him in back-to-back games, and the Islanders presumably would have suffered a backlash from their fans, who are already upset that the Isles are playing in KC at all, if they'd chosen the KC game over the Long Island game to play Tavares.

But isn't Wang's entire purpose for playing the game in KC to generate pressure on Long Island politicians? The not-so veiled veiled threat? Wouldn't placing the new face of the franchise smack dab in a supposed suitor city be the way to do that?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More Isles vs. Kings Notes

The Stars Randy Covitz has this piece today: Islanders Have More Than KC Game On Their Mind

• I don’t like the implication in this Newsday story that Tavares won’t play on Tuesday. If it’s accurate that Tavares will play four preseason games total, and he played on the 16th, will be playing today (20th), and both games against the Devils (23rd & 29th)...that means he won’t be playing Tuesday night. I hope the article has that wrong. KC fans deserve to be thrown a frickin’ bone here.

• If you want to brush up on the Kings and Islanders, check out Puck Daddy’s season previews here (NY) and here (LA).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Islanders vs. Kings Game Preview

New York Islanders vs. Los Angeles Kings
Tuesday, September 22, 2009 7:00
Sprint Center • Kansas City, Missouri


I can’t speak for the rest of the city, but I’m excited for what I believe will be the 87th NHL game played in Kansas City. The first 86 were made up of two Scouts preseason games, 80 Scouts regular season games, and four preseason games between 19982008. The Blues played in all four of the recent preseason games, which means Tuesday’s game will be the first played in Kansas City to not feature a team from Missouri. To make up for the lack of a regional team, I think AEG was banking on the Islanders appearance generating a buzz in KC. As far as I can tell, that hasn't happened. I think KC fans understand the Islanders are not on the brink of moving here, and that we’re being used as a bargaining ploy again. Not exactly inspiring stuff.

In spite of all the nonsense surrounding the game, I’ll just be soaking up the game itself, enjoying the unbeatable atmosphere of a live NHL game taking place in my home town.

The Sprint Center has cooked up this ad for the game. The Kings have posted an interview with assistant coach Jamie Kompon about the two Kings games in Kansas City. It sounds almost like an AEG promo for the Sprint Center:



John Tavares Watch: The much heralded Islanders rookie made his NHL debut on September 16th in Edmonton, but has sat out three of the Islanders first four preseason games. That means we’ll be seeing either his second or third game. He didn’t get a point in his first game, so perhaps KC fans will be treated to his first NHL point.

That’s all assuming he’ll play Tuesday night - something I fully expect, but I’ll breathe easier once he’s officially announced.


Here’s some video of Tavares in Islanders training camp:





And here is a rather ridiculous post from Newsday insinuating that the game has sold out. Don't think so - I still get tickets available on the 22nd row of the lower level.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Looking Back at the Sprint Center's First Hockey Game



A week from the moment Im writing this, Ill be sitting in the Sprint Center taking in an NHL hockey game. Im starting to get excited. Seems like a good time to take a look back at last years preseason game between the Blues and Kings.

Fair or not, the game was viewed by many as an audition or test of Kansas Citys potential to be a successful NHL market. If it was a test, the venue passed with flying colors. It was clear that watching hockey was in mind during the design of the building. There seems to be no debate that it would be a first-class NHL rink. That much was pretty well known, but it was still a thrill to see that promise fulfilled, if only for one brief night.

More scrutinized was the attendance figure. The crowd was strongly pro-Blues; I don’t know if that was a reflection of a decent Blues fanbase in Kansas City, or if a lot of fans made the trip from St. Louis. Probably a little of both. The announced attendance was 11,603. Im still not sure if thats a good number or a bad one - it all depends on how you want to spin it. The
Associated Press recap unequivocally stated it was good numbers for a preseason game. I dug into attendance numbers from last years preseason, and the average attendance in 95 games not played in Kansas City was 14,517. In that regard, 11,603 is clearly not a good number. A factor that was pointed to as hurting attendance was the game being played on a Monday. In Puck Daddys comment on the game, Paul McGannon was quoted as saying, If we have that game on a Friday or Saturday or even a Sunday afternoon, itd be sold out. Saying attendance was hurt by virtue of the game falling on a Monday seemed reasonable to me - at least until I noticed that there were seven other games played on the very same night that drew an average of 14,527.

But if you want to spin it in KCs favor, here is some ammunition for you: the Kings played two games that night, with a split squad in Kansas City and another in Los Angeles. In LA, only 8,221 showed up. The Kings played a total of four preseason games at home, and averaged 10,255. The Blues played three at home, and averaged 11,986. So KC was right on par with the performance of the hometown fans. You could also point out that the Islanders drew under 4,000 for a couple of their preseason games.

Sitting in the rink that night, I remember wishing there was a lot more people. Looking back with some perspective, the attendance was...fine. Im certainly not convinced that preseason games between out-of-town teams are worth much as a measuring stick of KCs viability as a market, but there are few if any concrete ways to measure such a thing, so attendance takes on an inflated importance.

As for the game itself, I wasnt sure what to expect - I'd never seen an NHL preseason game. I wasnt sure if guys would be phoning it in or if there would be a bunch of young guys killing it trying to make an impression with their teams suits. As I recall, the game started off at a torrid pace, and I was thrilled. But 8:20 into the game, the first penalty was called, and there were regular whistles the rest of the night as the teams piled up 20 combined penalties, and the game never could settle into a good flow or pace again.


Davis Drewiske earned the distinction of scoring the first goal in arena history soon after the second period was underway. Drewiske, on the penalty kill, got the puck high in the St. Louis zone, and flipped a quick shot/dump-in towards the net. Blues goalie Chris Mason seemed utterly surprised that Drewiske had taken the shot, and the puck fluttered past him. Mason definitely should have stopped it. Besides that one lapse, all four goaltenders were stellar. Jonathan Quick of the Kings foreshadowed the solid rookie year he was about to have (21-18, .914, 2.48), stopping all 19 shots he faced.

According to the
Star, Kings president Tim Leiweke was emphatic that one of the club’s phenoms, 19-year-old defenseman Drew Doughty...(would) make his pro debut in the Sprint Center. I kept an eye on Doughty throughout the night, and came away impressed. He didn’t do anything especially eye-popping that I recall, but he seemed calm and in control for a kid playing his first NHL game. He carried the puck through the neutral zone and gained the blue line confidently several times. Another guy that I was happy to see was Ted Purcell of the Kings - I lived near Cedar Rapids, Iowa during the time Purcell played in the USHL for the Cedar Rapids Rough Riders and had seen him play many times there.

The Kings seemed to have the game in hand with a 2-0 lead late in the third period when Paul Kariya banged in a gift-wrapped rebound on the power play. (Appropriately, all three goals came on special teams.) This fired up the crowd, and the final minutes had a buzz as the Blues attempted to tie it up. I had no rooting interest in either team, but at this point I was rooting for overtime so that the game could be stretched out a bit more. The Kings held on.

After the game, I marvelled that my drive home would take all of 15 minutes. Every NHL game I’d gone to before was hundreds or thousands of miles away, and so involved a long and expensive trip there and back. I turned to my wife: I could get used to this.

Related reading:
Puck Daddy: The NHLs Exhibition in Kansas City: Pass or Fail?
Puck Daddy: Scouting the NHLs Chances For a Return To Kansas City
St. Louis Game Time: Blues Open At Kansas City
Associated Press:
recap
Canadian Press:
Kings Beat Blues In Kansas City (slightly lengthened version of AP story)
NHL.com: scroll down to
Making a Statement
ESPN:
box score