After a week of Barons rountable goodness, we culminate with an excitement for the season opener which happens to be this Sunday in Cedar Park, Texas against the Stars. We've discussed the play on the ice, we've talked about the off-ice troubles, we've predicted both the Oilers and Barons seasons, and we've concocted ways of growing the fan base. Today, we take all those things and toss them into our CCM skate bag (forget you Reebok!), let them marinate in the trunk of our car, and pull them out for an early morning skate.
The first season of AHL play in Oklahoma City indeed had many firsts. We got our first look at what really good, solid hockey looks like. We began to understand the importance of the farm when call-ups occur. We embraced the closeness of future NHL stars. We relished in a first round playoff berth. We sighed at the Game 7 loss. In the end, it was a terrific season of firsts, but one that will certainly be a highlight in the Oklahoma City sports timeline.
Today the roundtable answers one very simple, but all inclusive question. What is your opinion of the first Oklahoma City Barons season?
The roundtable today consists of Patricia, who's contributions to the blogging world at Artfulpuck are always entertaining; Scott, purveyor of the great minor league Oilers site OilFieldHockey.com; season ticket holder, photographer, and Barons chronicler, Candace who posts at A New Ice Age; Evan, the featured prospect writer for the notorious OilersJambalaya; Avid hockey fan, and Star Wars lover Jonathan; and, of course, your two lovable Copper & Blue writers, Neal and Eric.
Patricia: Since I appeared on scene for the end of the Barons first season and their playoffs, I can only speak for that portion. IT WAS VERY EXCITING HOCKEY! After being an NHL fan living on the east coast, this was my first experience with AHL hockey and I was very impressed with the Barons. Were they Calder Cup Champions? No. But they certainly put on a very good hockey game for fans and two of their playoff games in Oklahoma City rank very high on my list of most enjoyable hockey games.
Scott: Though it was exciting, there were struggles along the way. Especially with the injury situation in Edmonton. The season was a good one for a 1st year team.
Candace:On-ice was fantastic, despite a slow start and kind of a muddling middle. As far as I was concerned, the guys never failed to excite. I went into last season knowing how things went in the final season in Springfield, therefore with pretty low expectations. I was more than pleasantly surprised in the outcome, and they frankly exceeded my expectations.
Off-ice left much to be desired from the front office, but you kind of had to write things off as a learning curve. I'm not being as lenient at this point. I don't know that some really appreciate me expressing my opinion, but hey...improvement never came with everyone staying silent. :-)
Evan: Professionally it was run well. Was run with class and considering how fast things needed to move, it was well organized. Some conflicts with overlap of Thunder NBA games were not good. Attendance will need help from the marketing side.
Jonathan: The first season was fun. We got to create bonds to the players and had a blast. I had the luck of being one of the few hockey fans at my office and having season tickets from my office, so I got to go to a lot of games last year and enjoy the first season the right way. I doubt I'll be able to make as many games this season and that is sad, but I'm glad I got to really enjoy the first season.
Eric: As a first season, I was very happy. There were a few off-ice kinks that have been worked on in the off-season and there a few still a work in progress, and of course the on-ice performance was great. I only wish the division theatrics at the end of the season had taken place at home. To have as many call-ups as they did, the team rallied hard to make it into the playoffs. The bar was definitely set high, and I can see them setting it even higher for next season.
Neal: It's hard for me to contain my level of happiness for season one in Oklahoma City. Better hockey was something I hoped I'd see in Oklahoma, and when it came to fruition, it indeed was a breath of fresh air. The season was a success on the ice as we met coaches and players that both embraced Oklahoma hockey, and their promising futures. That's incredible to watch develop before your eyes. Sure the team needs to be promoted better, the Cox Center full, and the giveaways more shiny, but it beats the alternative - no American League hockey. In some regards I feel forever indebted to the Edmonton Oilers for pursuing a relationship (and vice-versa) with Prodigal Hockey and the town I call home. From the opening press conference to the start of season number two, Oilers/Barons hockey is alive and well. Anyway you slice it, this is a good thing.