Tornadoes, Cowboys, The Bible Belt, & Barons

As we embrace the summer heat and wind that blows like a firehose of molten lava, we Oklahomans long for the winter months where the air is cold and dry. We look forward to football season with the gusto of a 16 year old getting their drivers license, and we proudly display the crimson and cream or orange and black (in my case, an Okie-Buckeye, I outdo them both in scarlet and grey. wink. wink.). However, there has always been a small but passionate group of Okies that yearn for things greater than college football. We indeed are smart, as we turn our gaze towards the rink. A frozen indoor tundra full of men eager to “light the lamp” and lose some teeth in the process. Yes, of course, I’m talking about hockey. And, yes, I’m talking about Oklahoma hockey.

As the OKC Blazers of the Central Hockey League closed their doors, the promise of a “better brand of hockey” was on the sports horizon. When the news of the A coming to town broke, we all shouted ‘Drop That Puck!’ in unison, and when we dug deeper and learned that the team would farm for the Edmonton Oilers we all secretly wanted to erect flaming oil derricks in our living rooms. The hockey gods had smiled upon us and we were ready for the history of great hockey to continue in OKC, and for that history to now be connected to the iconic Oilers organization.

Recently, the great folks at ‘Copper & Blue’ posted an excellent article wondering what can be expected from the non-hockey market of OKC, “Mick for Mayor” interview and all! Rest assured hockey youngsters playing in the OKC metro area, there is much more to Oklahoma City than tornadoes, cowboys, and the Bible belt (although those things will NEVER go away). Here are just a few things you will soon find out and grow to admire about your NEW city.

Get Your Eat On…Steak Is Our Friend
Not too far from the downtown OKC Cox Center, formerly know as the Myriad or Incomparable Myriad, lies the smelliest part of our town. A smell that while normally would curl your toes will soon have you salivating? Why? The stockyards my friend, the stockyards. Nestled directly in front of thousands of cattle and cowpokes lies one of the best steak eateries in the south, Cattleman’s. I just slobbered on my MacBook as I wrote that. And trust me when I say this, you WILL NEVER LOOK AT A COW THE SAME WAY AGAIN. You’ll look at at his back and you’ll get giddy about a t-bone. You’ll see the hip and begin dreaming about side dishes to accompany your filet mignon. Trust me, it will happen. Steak is our friend.

Ya’ll Warsh Yer Hands. Ifinyadont…
We all try to hide it. We all try to deny it. We all don’t realize we do it. No matter which way you slice it, Oklahomans have strange sayings. It’s kind of like that old Abercrombie sweater you bought for 90% off at the beginning of summer…you’re proud and embarrassed by it all at the same time.  We like to compare things to animals, “duck on a june bug”, “dog’s hind leg”and my favorite, “poor as Job’s turkey”. We just can’t help it. With all this wide open space we just love relating things to our four-legged and sometimes two-legged friends. When you step off the plane at Will Rogers, trade in your Canadian “Eh” for a good ole’ “Howdy”.

Those Country Songs Were Sooooo Right (Kinda)
Ugh, here comes the portion of the blog post where I talk about how cool country music can be. About how Garth Brooks’ song “The Dance” meant so much to me when I was a kid. Lame, right? I agree. Country music, much like eating roasted duck, is an acquired taste. Cringe-inducing twang, silly thematic elements, and too many mentions of “hick” to count all add up to a somewhat dreadful musical ear-plosion. I’ve somewhat mellowed as the years go by and I’ve kind of begun to enjoy a country and western tune now and then. However there is no denying that country music embraces kindness and comradery like no other genre. Oklahomans band together during hard times (tornadoes, floods, ice storms, bombings), and always support community. OKC Barons fans WILL BE LOYAL TO THEIR TEAM, they WILL SUPPORT THE PLAYERS, and they WILL DESPISE YOU if you don’t love them back. Plain and simple. The great Woody Guthrie put it best when he wrote “All Work Together”, “I can paint my fence. Mow my lawn. But if we all work together, well it shouldn’t take long”.

We’ve Come A Long Way Baby
There was a time, not too long ago, that OKCers avoided downtown like it was a pair of stone-washed jeans. Old publishing companies, random worn out office spaces, some kind of strange botanical garden, the list goes on. The only trip sports fans took downtown was the occasional bull riding event and of course for the OKC Blazers. Now you can catch the Redhawks at the Bricktown Ballpark, see the Thunder battle at the For Center, catch a great show at local theaters, eat some incredible food, hear some great music, and live in apartments all in the Bricktown area. It’s a work in progress. Still small, but what a difference 10+ years makes. And the Bricktown area isn’t the only place surging, many of the surrounding areas have incredible housing options that range from affordable to Ilya Kovalchuk (too soon hockey fans?).

What’s Good For The Kevin Is Good For The Colin
That’s hilarious, the NBA in Oklahoma City. You’re kidding. Are the players going to live in teepee’s and ride horses to the games? No way you’ll ever get guys to stay here. As the Beatles once said, “ob-la-di, ob-la-da, life goes on, bra”. Life went on and brought the painfully dreadful Supersonics to town and a Thunderous team was born. I know, I know, it’s still early to judge this Thunder team, but after Durantula finished his entry contract he goes out and signs a nice contract TO STAY IN OKC. Surely all those zeroes played a part in that decision, but don’t think he couldn’t make more elsewhere (just not in Miami). Big time players and small time players alike can, have and will make it in OKC. Fan support is a huge part of that. Corporate sponsorship as well. So, Colin McDonald, I’ll see you at the Disney on Ice come September because you’ll be fine in OKC.

In the end, I challenge all current and future OKC Barons/Edmonton Oilers players that head down south to the great state of Oklahoma to treat your visit as if you were Dr. Livingstone (relation? why, yes!) traveling the Nile River. Have an open mind, enjoy the moment, and you’ll want to come back for more. BONUS: We don’t have giant man-eating bugs to deal with as did Dr. Livingstone. At least not during the winter months 🙂

Get On Board w/ The OKC Barons

If you’re in OKC and you’re a hockey fan, the news of an Edmonton Oilers AHL affiliate in your town is met with incredible excitement and fervor. In a city that recently welcomed an NBA franchise, it seemed that hockey was taking a back seat. Fear not! Mr. Funk closes the chapter on the Central League Blazers in favor of a more relevant (and more profitable) AHL team. Even before the first puck drops the excitement is building. Here are a few reasons why YOU need to jump on the OKC Barons bandwagon NOW!

  1. The Edmonton Oilers

    The Oilers joined the NHL in 1979 and quickly became a powerhouse in the league winning five Stanley Cups in only 7 years. Dubbed the “Dynasty Years”, the Oilers saw many future Hall of Famers glide across their rink. The likes of Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jacques Plante firmly nestled the Edmonton team into the upper echelons of NHL play. And although they struggled through most of the 90’s, the team surprised everyone by making it to the Cup Finals in 2006. What a historic team! Take pride in being affiliated with one of the most successful NON-original six teams.

  2. Up & Coming Players

    Picking first in the NHL entry draft is a great thing only if you pick carefully. Ironically, the crop of young up and comers in this years entry draft all could find a nice home in Edmonton. But let’s look beyond the BIG team and focus on the up and comers in the AHL. Have you ever heard of Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux? The two combined have 85 goals, 124 assists, and 209 points all accumulated for the Hershey Bears during the 09-10 season. Or how about Cedrick Desjardins who racked up 29 wins and only 9 losses in net for the Hamilton Bulldogs? All of these guys have future NHL written all over them. The OKC Barons haven’t named a coaching staff or listed any rosters, but believe me when I say this, you will see the NHL future from your cozy seat in the Cox Center.

  3. OKC Hockey History

    You may not have realized this, but Oklahoma City has celebrated hockey for well over 70 years. The Oklahoma City Warriors of the AHA formed in 1933 where their home rink was at the Stockyard Coliseum (two words that strangely don’t go together). The team moved to Minneapolis after two seasons, but saw the beginnings of what would be a great hockey fan base. Believe it or not, players for the Warriors included Helge Bostrom and Bobby Burns who had lengthy stints with the Chicago Blackhawks. One OKC Warrior player, Frank Ingram, played two and a half seasons for the Hawks and later retired in Edmond, Oklahoma where he died in 1985. Fast forward to 1965 and the birth of the Blazers. Between 1965-1977 the OKC Blazers “farmed” for the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team would later become the OKC Stars for a brief time before returning to the OKC Blazers once the Central League was re-established. Needless to say, Oklahoma City has hockey roots that are firmly planted. Along comes the AHL OKC Barons and the roots go a little deeper.

  4. More Bang For Your Buck

    Cheap ticket prices. Great hockey. Mid-week and weekend games. Competitive play. The “close to the action” feel of small buildings. All of these make for a great night on the town. If you’re a casual fan of the game and maybe caught a few Blazers games over the years, be prepared for a better brand of hockey. I, for one, was a huge Blazer fan. I’ll miss those players and teams, but with great talent developing before our eyes in the AHL you can’t help but get more bang for your buck.

  5. Hockey Makes You Cool

    No matter how you slice it, AHL, CHL, or NHL, hockey is cool. It’s rough and graceful. Passionate and sincere. No sports fan can deny the fact that hockey is a sport of determination and grit. What better place for such a sport than in Oklahoma City where people understand the pioneer spirit best. We work and play hard. We value community. We stand up for what’s right. We stick with our friends. I’m not one to wax poetic, but the correlation between hockey and the city of OKC is so perfect. And what about those jerseys? Sorry OKC Thunder, the AHL Barons got the cooler logo. Can’t wait to get my swag! Join me and you’ll be cool too.

What do you think? Why do you love hockey in OKC? Any other reasons why people should jump on the OKC Barons bandwagon? Let me hear from you people. Post your comments below.