The AHL's release of a full schedule came slower than a Chris Pronger mid-ice skate, but nevertheless, it is here. There are a few highlights, lowlights, oddities, and more. There even might be a reason for Oilers' fans to make a road trip to see the Barons play live and in person. Stretch out the foam finger, break out the face paint, and prepare for the Oklahoma City Barons' inaugural season. Below you'll find a few meanderings about the Barons and their eighty first dates.
Ready to digest two OKC Barons games in less than 24 hours? The season opens with the Houston Aeros coming to town on October 9th followed by the Chicago Wolves the next afternoon. I'm proud to say that the AHL did a great job on this one. This is a great opportunity for die-hards to celebrate the beginning of some great hockey and for casual fans to jump on the bandwagon. I expect that this opening weekend will feature huge promotions, great hype, and fantastic ticket sales.
There are four long gaps of home games that take place prior to March; a four game stint to start the season, eight games to cover most of November, five games at the beginning of the new year, and finally another five game stint to end January and welcome in February. The only speed bump is the gap from mid-February through the end of the season where home games get few and far between, especially the away games that occupy a huge chunk of March. You'd always like to see those long stretches of home games closer to the end of the season where points are so important and the push to the playoffs begins.
Oklahoma City hockey fans who followed the Central League Blazers will remember those Turnpike series against the Tulsa Oilers, which usually involved much fighting, many game misconducts, and a few disorderly conducts in the stands. And don't get me started on the other rivalry with the Wichita Thunder (or is it the Blunder? Some things never change). Clearly there will be some rivalries established with the new OKC Barons as they play 30 games against teams from Texas. However, we may find that matchups with Abbotsford, Toronto, and Hamilton might be interesting because they play less frequently, but feature "high end" hockey markets. Sometimes the greatest rivalries are between teams that don't meet often enough to get their aggressive tendencies out. But don't get me wrong, there is already internet chit chat about the border wars with the surprisingly successful Texas Stars.
Early Morning Wake-up Call
I'm sure if you ask enough AHL or NHL players at least a few will be honest enough to tell you "I hate day games". Nothing throws off your routine quite like a day game, but what could be worse? How about a 10:30am game (February 9th vs. San Antonio Rampage). No stranger to a few AHL teams nor to the Oklahoma City hockey market, a game at 10:30am usually involves high pitched screaming, spilled drinks, and a spike in cotton candy sales. Yes, this indeed will be a kids game for area schools. If the past trend continues this sort of game will be great for ticket sales, but will feature some of the zaniest, sloppiest hockey you might see all year. Always good for a few laughs, but even better for those trying to squeeze in a few more "sick" days at work.
Those are just a few of the scheduling highlights. Excitement for the season continues to build in Oklahoma. I'm already getting fewer "We have a hockey team?" questions, and the love for Oilers hockey continues to warm in my heart. Make sure you visit the Barons official site for the full schedule. Hey, you can even import it into Outlook! (Who still does that?)
What's coming soon for the Barons? Look for insightful pieces on the state of hockey in Oklahoma, broadcast potential, and interviews. I know you just subscribed to the RSS feed because you just can't wait!