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Scary stuff in OKC: Griffins, Barons wait out tornado warning in parking garage, game postponed

When I'm not making heated comments about Red Wings games on Twitter, I try to at least keep a professional demeanor and stay away from sensationalism, but as a human being as much as anything else, it was very, very hard to just keep my damn mouth shut both on social media and here while reading WOOD TV8's Larry Figurski, Fox 17's Steve Amorose and the Grand Rapids Griffins' Twitter accounts deliver a terrifying play-by-play on Friday evening.

The bottom line? A day after the Griffins' front office helped with clean-up efforts in Moore, OK, another tornado formed near and passed close to the Cox Convention Center (among several tornadoes that hit the Oklahoma City area), where the Griffins were supposed to be battling the Oklahoma City Barons in Game 4 of the AHL's Western Conference Final.

Instead of taking in a hockey game or playing in it, the fans, the media, the players, coaches and Red Wings executives had to take shelter in the parking garage under the rink, and when they returned to the rink, severe flooding delayed Game 4 until Saturday and pushed Game 5 from Saturday to Sunday.

As the Grand Rapids Press's Peter J. Wallner noted in a pair of stories, the Griffins tried to keep a stiff upper lip about what happens, but the Grifins' Flickr account posted pictures that betray both the seriousness of the situation and the plain old frustration that many Michiganders know occurs when you're alerted to a tornado warning and simply have to plant your butt downstairs until the storm passes:

The severe weather, which led to players and fans to evacuate the Cox Convention Center and seek shelter in an underground parking structure, caused rain to leak into the stadium, flooding stands and the press box at the home of the Oklahoma City Barons. Players and fans spent about an hour in the parking structure.

The Western Conference final game will be played 5 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. Game 4 of the series is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday.

"It was getting to the point where it was such a long delay that it wouldn't have been as good a game as it should for either team," Griffins coach Jeff Blashill said.

Blashill said the team would get a meal and then prepare for Game 4 now on Saturday.

"We've had a lot of road games where we play Saturday night and then Sunday afternoon, so it won't be any big deal for us," he said. "We'll adjust tonight and go forward from there."

Fox 17 posted a story about the postponement, and WOOD TV posted a video...

The Oklahoman's Michael Baldwin tells the Barons' side of the story...

Game 4 has been rescheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Cox Center. Game 5 has been pushed back to Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Cox Center. The Barons lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

“This is my first rainout in professional hockey,” quipped Barons coach Todd Nelson.

The east side of the arena, the Barons locker room, east concourse and parts of the east sections flooded.

“At this point we have a facility that is practically flooded,” said Prodigal CEO Bob Funk Jr., who runs the Barons for the Edmonton Oilers. “We have to not only take the players’ safety into consideration but the overall status of the building. This building is not in shape to go play a game. We had to make a call tonight, and we decided it was in the best interest of the players, spectators and workers’ safety that we postpone the game and play it on Sunday.”

The game originally was slated to start Friday night at 7. With a severe tornado threat in the downtown area, team officials moved fans to the parking lot underneath the Cox Center for 45 minutes.

Fans were allowed to re-enter the arena at 7:45. But another problem, a major water leak from heavy thunderstorms, further delayed the game, which eventually was postponed.

At 9 p.m., when players were allowed to return home, arena workers were still trying to remove standing water from the Barons locker room. At one point during the delay, water was pouring through the radio booth, spewing down the upper deck steps toward the lower bowl on the east side of the arena.

EdmontonOilers.com's Mark Ciampa's game blog ended up turning into a tornado warning blog, and the Oilers posted a video of the flooding...

As Puck Daddy notes, Barons forward Josh Green Tweeted some images of the flooding as well...

And in addition to filing an official press release...

Tonight’s Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals between the Grand Rapids Griffins and Oklahoma City Barons has been postponed and rescheduled for Sunday due to severe weather conditions in downtown Oklahoma City.

Game 4 of the series will be held on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT, and Game 5 will now take place on Sunday at 5 p.m. EDT. Both games will be held at the Cox Convention Center, before the series turns back to Grand Rapids for a potential Game 6 on Tuesday.

The Griffins posted a video of coach Blashill discussing the situation:


WXYZ's Dave LewAllen also spoke to Wings executive Kris Draper, who was attending the game alongside goalie mentor/coach Chris Osgood, about finding himself caught up in the situation:

Draper and the others spent about 45 minutes in the parking garage below ground until the all clear was given by authorities.

"They didn't hesitate to take us downstairs right away," Draper said. "When the locals are taking it serious you go right downstairs."

The home locker room and other areas of the Cox Convention Center suffered severe leaking and flooding during the storm and the decision was ultimately made to postpone the game.

Once the all clear was given Draper saw evidence of the storm from his view from inside the arena.

"The rains coming down, the wind's still blowing, it's non-stop lightning." said Draper. "It's still coming down pretty good but obviously the tornado warning has passed and from what we heard, it was pretty close to where we were."

WXYZ posted a video, too...

And even Expressen's Gunnar Nordstrom spoke to Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and Oilers prospect Anton Lander about the situation. Andersson said that the weather was stormy from the time he and Nyquist landed in Oklahoma City--they flew to OKC instead of traveling with the Wings back to Detroit after they were assigned to the Griffins--and things got worse in a hurry on Friday (what follows is roughly translanted):

Question: Did you have time to take off your hockey equipment when you were notified that you had to evacuate the stadium?

Andesson: Some of my teammates had to take their stuff off, but me, I had my gym clothes on and was just beginning to change.

Question: What happened next?

Andersson: We had to wait out the storm in the parking garage, which they told us was the safest building in town, underground, for about 45 minutes.Then we got a first report that the game would be played later that evening, and when they found out that water was leaking from the roof to the locker rooms and even the stands, the gae was canceled," says Joakim.

Here's hoping that the players can play and that the folks who live in and around Oklahoma City have safer weather for the rest of the weekend.

Filed in: | The Malik Report | Permalink


SYF's avatar

Saying prayers for The Sooner State and all other States in Tornado Alley.

Posted by SYF from A tall cool pint of Guinness on 06/01/13 at 01:48 PM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.