Photo courtesy of Stu Seeger. All rights reserved.
Announced yesterday, the San Antonio Rampage will play host to a preseason game between the Florida Panthers and the Dallas Stars. The game will be played Friday night, September 28th at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. It will be the third time an NHL preseason game has been played in San Antonio, but the first played in the ten year old AT&T Center. Tickets will only be $15.
From the release:
“This is a great opportunity to showcase the NHL talent from our affiliate the Florida Panthers and from Texas’ NHL team, the Dallas Stars,” said Spurs Sports and Entertainment President Rick Pych. “Spurs Sports and Entertainment is dedicated to providing the highest caliber sports and entertainment to the San Antonio community and this NHL game will feature some of the best hockey players in the world. For years the Rampage have been developing talented players right here in San Antonio that have gone on to achieve great success in the NHL. This game will exhibit exactly what the Rampage and the American Hockey League is all about, which is seeing the same players who you once saw in San Antonio and other AHL cities now playing at the highest level on teams like the Panthers and Stars.”
This is fantastic on the part of both the AHL and NHL as well as the two affiliates. Pitting a Texas team against the Rampage affiliate is a double-whammy of excitement for fans. It’s also an interesting wrinkle to the on-going discussion of how AHL and NHL counterparts can work together to promote the game well beyond the boundaries of any particular city.
It’s not a new idea nor is it a novel one. Playing preseason games in other markets isn’t something foreign to the NHL. There is however a smart marketing ploy at work here. One that other AHL/NHL teams should consider before quickly saying NO.
There are some that have questioned the validity of the American League. Darren Dreger, a few months ago, mentioned the discussion by NHL GM’s to place minor league affiliates closer to home. Those same GM’s even tossed out the idea that a more geographically helpful positioning of those teams become the launching point for league affiliates. Even if that meant you had to create a new league. Those kind of discussions do not bode well for the history-rich American League that thrives on calling itself a “minor league counterpart” of the NHL.
Regardless of which side you fall on when it pertains to that discussion (I both love/hate the creation of a new league, for the record), there’s no denying the incredible positives that can come from playing preseason games in other markets. Especially in markets where NHL affiliates currently reside.
The Oklahoma City Barons are a prime candidate for something of this nature. As fans, what says, “Lets Begin The Season” better than seeing an NHL team play in your neck of the woods? We won’t see Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall or Ryan Smyth play as Barons any time soon, but we certainly would love to see them play nonetheless. It heightens the awareness of A) a team affiliate actually being in Oklahoma City and B) the potential fandom that could grow for the Oilers of the NHL. Simply put, moving a preseason game to Oklahoma City which featured Stars vs. Oilers or Blues vs. Oilers widens the scope of potential Edmonton fans. Merchandising, NHL Game Center subscriptions, AHL ticket sales, as well as traveling ticket sales (ie. traveling to Dallas to see the Oilers next season) are all likely results of early season games in Oklahoma.
It certainly would be the hottest ticket in town on that night, which is something OKCers haven’t experienced on an icy surface since Disney On Ice came to town at the State Fair Grounds.
So I beg the Oilers/Barons to pay close attention. Because a preseason game might do some good. Both for the Oilers and their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma. Would certainly do more good than harm.