Monday Mumble: It’s A Bad Time To Be A Hockey Fan In Oklahoma

Photo courtesy of Rob Ferguson. All rights reserved.

I can’t help but sigh. I feel like these Monday Mumble’s have become all about the dreadful things in hockey. Moaning about lockouts, watered down hockey, and AHL teams desperately seeking attention have gotten the best of my psyche. I just want to eat gallons of Americone Dream, sit in my La-Z-Boy, and wait for the GREAT State Fair of Oklahoma to arrive (Wow, that sounds really terrible minus the Americone Dream). And so today won’t be any different. Because it’s a bad time to be a hockey fan in Oklahoma.

Before you channel your inner Hulk and send me a disparaging twitter message, let me take a stab at explaining. We have an AHL team! That in, and of itself, is a huge deal. We also have a very good AHL team. Good coaching and headsy prospects are entertaining to say the least. But it’s also a time in the history of Oklahoma City where things are getting crowded in the Fall around these parts, but are also legitimately better products than ice, sweat, and Teemu’s biceps (oh the horror!).

I loathe the ESPN rankings. They are about as legitimate as the acting on an ABC Family drama (I just can’t quit you, Michelle!). They make me angry, disheartened, and bitter — thus I stopped reading them years ago. But twitter won’t let me close my eyes. So I found the franchise rankings for 2012. The ESPN soothsayers have a method to their madness. They rank each pro franchise (and later collegiate “franchises”) based on bang for buck, fan relations, affordability, stadium experience, players, coaching, and title track. That’s a pretty healthy list of criteria. Perhaps you could have added hotels in the area, best steaks, or best cupcake stand within walking distance, but this is ESPN — THEY MAKE THEIR OWN RULES. In case you were wondering, at the top of the franchise list — NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL — are YOUR Oklahoma City Thunder.

What an incredible achievement — that Oklahoma would rank highest on a national poll in something other than divorce rates. By comparison, the Thunder have risen from #26 in 2010, to #6 in 2011, to #1 in 2012. It’s a franchise on the rise both on and off the court. And if you’ve ever watched or attended an NBA game in OKC — you already knew this.

But what we’ve quietly forgotten is that the Thunder aren’t the only one in the Fall/Winter that get a #1 ranking. So do the Sooners. ESPN has long loved the Crimson and Cream. Ranking them the most prestigious school since 1936. That’s a lot of accolades and something that is hard to argue. And to me, the longstanding successes of **UofOklahoma are much greater than the quick and sudden impact of the Thunder. But both are great for this city.

**I have excluded the recent success of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. FIN.

We’ve come a long way Oklahoma.

But let’s wrap our minds around promoting hockey in the state of Oklahoma. It’s an uphill battle that never ends. Oh, you could count the number of NHL or AHL franchises that are in cities with crowded schedules, but none compare to the frenzied Fall/Winter in OKC. The newness of the Thunder. The longevity of the Sooners. Go ahead, find a way to make people pay attention.

Piled on top is the fact that the NHL looks stupid. Two lockouts in a brief time, with another looming in the coming weeks — who wants to watch a league like that? Not me (but I do anyway).

I’m not eye-gouging our beloved OKC Barons, and their front office — I just don’t envy their jobs. Selling frozen Eggo Waffles outside of Mama E’s is hard to do.

The timing for American League hockey in OKC couldn’t have come sooner. It couldn’t have been more glorious. We, hockey fans, were ready for it. We deserved it. Our local owners wanted it. And we got it. It just came at a really really bad time. A time where the greatness of college football and the newness of NBA basketball have collided seemingly at an apex of awareness.

Go ahead and dislike this post on Facebook when you see it in your timeline later. I’d do the same thing. Another promo piece, another downer. But at least we can collectively agree that the world directly around us is shrinking. Orange and blue, crimson and cream – very little copper, blue, and white.

But there’s hope! Read Artful Puck & Puckchk! They point to a hockey renaissance in Oklahoma. Well done.