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.

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

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 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" 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:
Canadian Press:
Kings Beat Blues In Kansas City (slightly lengthened version of AP story) scroll down to
Making a Statement
box score