Wednesday, September 23, 2009

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.

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.


Kansas City Star report

PucKChaser recap

Lighthouse Hockey recap

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

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