by Lisa McRitchie on 11/10/11 at 04:00 AM ET
The Edmonton Oilers’ AHL farm team, the Oklahoma City Barons have not been receiving the traditional main stream coverage that might help the team attract more fans. This is the Barons’ second year of existence and unfortunately Ryan Aber, the writer who covered the Barons for the Daily Oklahoman was reassigned and has not been replaced. Neal Livingston has written on the Copper & Blue a piece explaining the media situation, and what that means for non-traditional coverage of the team.
It is because of the current media situation however, that it has become so important that Barons continue their valiant work in the community.
The Barons, like all other hockey teams, visit sick children in hospitals have worked with various city schools to engage with students in an after school floor hockey program and have also worked with Habitat for Humanity.
Although this is not intended as a ploy to make the news, or draw attention to the team in this case that is exactly what this sort of endeavour can do. As the Barons’ head coach Todd Nelson says in the video, this is a team building event for the players, and a chance to bond outside of the ice. At the same time, the players are becoming actively involved in their community, and impacting lives.
Most likely I have framed more houses than most of the players, but especially with your first build, there is something to be said about actually building something with your own two hands; it can be quite rewarding. The players had the opportunity to meet the family that will live in the home once it’s finished and based off on the twitter responses from the players, it was a good day. Curtis Hamilton tweets “Spent the day building a house for habitat for humanity. Pretty cool experience. #nailing” Hamilton is an Oilers prospect and left winger playing his first year in the AHL.
Some may see the Barons working with Habitat for Humanity a ploy to garner media attention, but I couldn’t disagree more. The Barons are healthy, fit and energetic; exactly the kind of people that would find a day of manual labour relatively easy. The players are also a large group who was able to devote a day of labour, something that not every office is able to do. I truly believe that this was intended as a way for the players to give back to the community and a chance for some of the new players to have an opportunity to see more of their community as well as prepare themselves for more events and activities such as this throughout their careers.
At the same time, the Barons have decreased the seating in the Cox Convention Centre, their home rink, to give the arena a more “homey feel” but also because they have not been selling out games. Exactly why Barons hockey isn’t big in Oklahoma City, I can’t say, but I think that it was something to do with media attention. So although a day of building with Habitat for Humanity is an excellent endeavour in terms of team building, it also serves the dual purpose of perhaps introducing the team to some who were not otherwise aware of their existence.
When I made a visit to Oklahoma last season to interview players and see what the atmosphere was like everyone I spoke to outside of the arena wasn’t quite sure who the Barons were, or what the AHL was. The manager of my hotel said that he believed that people in Oklahoma City loved winners, but that perhaps they would prefer a professional sports team more than another minor team. I found his comment interesting and told him that several players would be up and down from the NHL through the course of a season. This piqued his interest, especially since the last hockey team in Oklahoma City had been a CHL (Central Hockey League) team, the Oklahoma City Blazers. As I left, I had hoped that perhaps I had encouraged at least one more person to take in a Barons game.
Both the Oilers and the Barons are off to an excellent start. The Barons are 9-2-1 while the Oilers are 9-3-2, and both teams need each other. A winning season for the Barons may help to attract the media attention that may help attract the fans. Unfortunately, this may be a chicken and the egg situation though. Is it fan attention that would drive the media attention? I think that it is the first option, but like everything else Oilers related, this is another wait and see situation.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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