Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

A Case For The Minors

image Tapeleg took me up on the Free Friday offer, allowing KK members to submit an article for publication on KK. A job well done and obviously written with great passion! Make sure to check out his own blog, Jerseys and Hockey Love. When the lockout was on, the prevailing attitude and phrase was, "There is no hockey." This was the biggest lie of the lockout (even bigger than never accepting a salary cap). No hockey is like saying there is no baseball without MLB, but there are a lot of people around the US who could tell you different. And during the lockout, the best hockey in the world was still going on in North America, it just had a worse television deal than the current one on OLN. While America moved on, or at least just fumed a bit, there were a lucky group of people watching the stars you got to see emerge this past season. Imagine seeing Cam Ward step in to save the day (oh, yeah, we all did, I just got to see it a year early), or Mike Commodore give a single knockout punch to a Bruin. I did, all in the same night. That was at a game between the Lowell Lock Monsters and the Providence Bruins. Ever seen a player reach out from the bench, and grab an opponents stick? I did, at a P-Bruins vs. Hartford Wolfpack game. Sheer comedy, as Brendon Walsh shrugged and argued when he was called for the penalty (there wasn't a person in the building who missed that one. I know, because they were all laughing). The game was more notable for the amount of fighting than the shootout, but I did get a game used puck. Yep, the Official Timekeeper tossed it over the glass to me, just before the shootout.. Because I was right on the glass. And I didn't pay $100+ to sit there. I got the best view of the shouting matches between the players in their boxes, wondering if they were going to go after each other as soon as the doors opened (they didn't). I was five feet away from Walsh as he asked Martin Grenier why he didn't really show up for the fight (Grenier just shrugged and laughed). Ever been to Glens Falls, NY? That is my favorite place to see a game. Why? I have no idea. But every seat is good, the 50/50 raffle is fun, the Chuck-A-Puck is fantastic, the beer is cold, and Barry Melrose signed my girlfriend's scarf. It has an outer ring that you walk around, (no upper level), with concessions in the corners, including baked items, and a really good beer selection. I saw the UHL Allstar game there, plus a few regular season games. Roanoke vs. Adirondack was a great game, with all the highs and lows you could ask for. Goals for, a squandered lead, goals against, and some last minute heroics. Best game I ever saw? No, but close. And now the Frostbite are no more. No hockey at the Glens Falls arena except for a preseason NHL game (which, if you are within 300 miles, you shouldn't miss). I was lucky enough to find Glens Falls on the hockey map.

Speaking of lucky, I won chuck-a-puck in Wichita, KS, along with a 50/50 raffle in Moline, IL (Quad City Mallards). Ever been to Moline? Great place to see a game. They love their Mallards. Also lucky, how about single handing a t-shirt toss at a Hartford Wolfpack game? I also caught one at an Austin IceBats game. I even got it signed, by 13 members of the team after the game, because I was skating with them after the game. Who gets to skate with the team after an NHL game? Nobody (at least, not the common fan). And they were the nicest people. They didn’t ‘want’ to be there, but you would never know. They played an awful game that day, and skating with them told me why. The first thing I noticed was how mushy the ice was. This is Austin, TX after all, and temperatures were in the 70s. Then I talked to a player who told me the story. They had played in Hidalgo, TX (Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees) the night before, but had bus troubles, started the game late, came back home, had more bus trouble, had to borrow a bus, and got into town around 9:00 am that day, then played a 4:00 pm game. You would never know talking to them, or watching them skate around with the little kids. I also got to skate with the team in Kalamazoo, Mi (K-Wings), but the team wasn’t on the ice in Ft. Wayne, Il after their loss. Find me an NHL team who does that and I’ll buy their jersey.

Before you start to wonder, these games aren’t a circus, either. These are real hockey games, with real players. Players who want to be there. Some are on the way up, some on the way down, and some are right where they’re supposed to be. It can be rough and tumble, or it can be clean skating hockey. It can be fight night, and there could be no fighting whatsoever. You can have games where there might as well have been no goalie, and games ending 1-0 in OT.

What you get is real hockey. Good hockey, with teams that really want your business, want you to come to the rink, want you to want to come back. These are the teams who work hard for the fans. They are constantly trying to get you in the door, with good games, participation, and value. When was the last time you sat on the glass for $15? Have you ever sat on the glass?

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com