The best we are going to get in Kansas City is an NHL exhibition game every year. Remember, I’m not opposed to an NHL team in Kansas City, I just don’t think it will happen. My reason for thinking that hasn’t changed for 10 years. There are strong precedents that point to the fact that just having an arena doesn’t make a city a candidate. Some cities became candidates before they even had an arena (Raleigh).
The hockey “season” at Sprint Center involves one game. This season Sprint Center will not only host one NHL game, but it will also host the NCAA Ice Breaker tournament. If you are a hockey fan in Kansas City, you are going to love this Fall.
This will be a great time to go to The Blue Line Sports Bar in the River Market, down a couple Labatt Blues and walk over to Sprint Center for the games on two successive weekends.
The one problem with past NHL exhibition games at Sprint Center is that our local fan base has only been interested in one team — whoever was playing the Kings. When we have Blues – Kings at Sprint Center, you attract all the Blues fans in town (and there are many) and you attract no Kings fans. Kings fans don’t exist in KC (do they exist anywhere?). We also had Kings-Islanders, which was a flop.
For the first time since Blues-Blackhawks was the exhibition game, we finally have two teams with a local following. The New York Rangers have fans EVERYWHERE. It’s a bit like the f’n Yankees. You can’t get away from Rangers fans. Anyone who has lived here for any amount of time knows that we have quite a few Colorado transplants in KC. They, of course, don’t stay in the KS/MO area because they return to Colorado because, well, IT’S COLORADO. Still, there will be a lot of Avs sweaters in the crowd. Rangers-Avs isn’t exactly a hatttrick (like Blues-Rangers, Blues-Blackhawks, Blackhawks-Wild, Blues-Wild would be). It’s a solid two-goal performance. I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Kreider and Paul Statsny play.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve actually enjoyed seeing the Kings. My buddy and I sat in the stands and said, “Hey, who is the Russian kid. He’s tough.” Turned out Slava Voynov is tough and is making an impact on the Kings, who are blazing through this year’s playoffs.
The game production could be better. The biggest fail of the NHL games at Sprint Center has been the PA announcer. Last year’s guy didn’t even know how to pronounce NHL player names. If AEG doesn’t get Steve Garrett to be the PA announcer for all these games in October, THEN THEY HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT THE KANSAS CITY MARKET. You can’t find one person who has attended a Blades or Mavericks game that doesn’t love the PA guy. Get Garrett to be the PA for these games, PLEASE.
Follow-up October hockey with Missouri Mavericks season opening up and things are definitely looking up for hockey fans in KC. One shouldn’t dismiss the Mavericks even though they are in the CHL. The Mavericks rank in the Top 20 of all minor league teams in attendance, #3 in their league and the Mavericks attendance equals the AHL’s league average. The Mavericks outdraw AHL teams in “hockey” markets like Rochester, Syracuse, Hamilton and Hartford.
Remember, KC was passed over for an AHL franchise by cities like Binghamton, Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Abbotsford, BC. KC’s minor league team is outdrawing all of them, except Cleveland. Our attendance for minor league hockey is equal to the attendance of AEG’s coveted Manchester Monarchs.
The Fall of 2012 through the end of the Mavericks season in the Spring of 2013 is about as good as we’re going to get hockey fans. Enjoy it!
(Now, can we get some more rinks in this town and REALLY grow the sport…)