Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cincinnati Hockey (an oxymoron)

This entry is mostly for our new friends from Hamilton, Montreal, and beyond who may have stumbled across this blog as you research your new farm team in Cincinnati. Hockey in Cincinnati is truly wacky. The writers from Gray’s Anatomy could not have come up with a more convoluted scenario. I’ll try to give a brief and neutral history so you may understand some of the jabs and comments across the message boards. I think I can do neutral successfully. Brief? That’s another question.

I’ve struggled with various ways to write this, giving enough of an explanation of the way things are without going into too much unnecessary detail. I’ll try it with bullet points:
  • Cincinnati has two large, professional hockey arenas
    • Cincinnati Gardens, old historic hockey barn, housed several teams including the AHL Swords in the 1970’s
      • Privately owned by a local banker
    • Riverfront Coliseum (Now US Bank Arena) built for the WHA Stingers in the 1970’s
      • Privately owned by the Nederlander organization (concert promotions, etc.)
  • Cincinnati spent most of the 1980’s without hockey.
  • 1990: Cincinnati Cyclones formed in the ECHL with an ownership group leasing the Cincinnati Gardens
  • 1992: Cyclones are wildly successful and move up to the IHL
  • 1997: The fan fracture begins – There was a “parting of ways” between the owners of the Cyclones team and the Cincinnati Gardens. Take any bad divorce story and substitute the names; it’s the same old story.
    • After unsuccessful re-negotiations of the lease terms, the Cyclones owners purchase the basically dormant Coliseum, remodel it, and move in
      • Cyclones fans remain loyal to the Cyclones and/or prefer the newer arena downtown on the Ohio River.
      • Gardens fans think the Cyclones treated the Gardens ownership poorly and stop supporting them.
    • The Gardens owners secure and AHL franchise and affiliate with the Mighty Ducks
      • Gardens fans remain loyal to the Gardens owners and/or the quaint hockey barn on the northern edge of Cincinnati
      • Cyclones fans believe the Gardens owners got the AHL team only to split the fans and kill the Cyclones
  • 1997-2001: We have two AAA teams in Cincinnati with the IHL Cyclones and AHL Ducks. The rhetoric between the team partisans is insane. Both sides truly believe their own stories and blindly support their teams
  • 2001: The IHL folds, the Cyclones ownership are in serious financial trouble. They fold the team and the Coliseum is taken over by the Nederlander group. A team ownership group including Phil Esposito brings in an ECHL franchise, keeping the name “Cyclones”
  • 2004: Under dwindling attendance and a dispute between Nederlander and the owners, the Cyclones go dormant and Nederlander assumes ownership of the Franchise
  • 2005: Anaheim drops their affiliation with the Cincinnati Gardens group., leaving NO hockey in Cincinnati for 05-06
  • 2006, March: The Gardens owners have a campaign to secure commitments for 2000 season tickets (or equivalent thereof) in order to have a viable offering to prospective NHL affiliates
    • They fail to secure the necessary numbers and withdraw from negotiations with NHL teams. Hockey is screwed in Cincinnati. Or so we thought.
      • Hardcore Gardens fans blame the lame Cyclones fans for failing to jump onboard and commit to tickets for the sake of saving hockey
    • Cyclones fans feel insulted by this jab and figure it was up to the Gardens folks to find their market and sell the tickets
    • The rhetoric really heats up, to the degree of complete and utter insanity
    • In the words of Rodney King: “Why can’t we all just get along?”
  • 2006, April: To the surprise of most, the Nederlander folks announce their plans to re-activate the ECHL franchise after the “Railraiders” pull the plug
    • Good news, right? Well, er, wrong. This is wacky Cincinnati, remember?
      • Still blaming the Cyclones fans for not supporting the Railraiders, and finding the ECHL product inferior, some Gardens supporters voice their profound opposition to any support for the Cyclones.
      • These fans are quick to point out that the current “Cyclones” aren’t really the team that was so successful in the 1990’s and some of them deny the Cyclones ever really being successful.
      • The Gardens organization floats rumors and trial balloons about a new approach for an AHL team in 2007. We’ll see.

That’s pretty much where we stand - two factions blaming the other for their own woes. The funny thing is that the actual number of these hardcore partisans is probably limited to less than two dozen on either side. The rest of us are average folks, down the middle, who just enjoy hockey. If you are really bored you can read my prior blogs on the arenas and on loyalty for a closer examination. But these 11 steps basically outline where we are today. A few dozen paper lions making a lot of noise among a market of about a million people.

Will the ECHL Cyclones be successful? I don’t know. By who’s definition of success will they be judged? I don’t know. Suffice to say they will not last as long as Les Habitants du Montreal, so if that is failure I’m sure they will fail. They may make it a season, maybe more. Only time will tell and the almighty dollar will decide.

*Disclaimer*
This blog is my sole opinion. It may be based on reason and fact; or it may be purely my emotional preference but it is mine alone. I only claim to be perfect most of the time. You are entitled to disagree, and I invite you to do so - somewhere else.

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