Saturday, August 19, 2006

Omaha has it really good.

Omaha's hockey fans have it way better than we do. They have three hockey products from which to choose.

University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks -- NCAA Div. I in a conference with Ohio State and Michigan.
Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights -- AHL
River City Lancers -- USHL, the top Junior league in the US.

All three are fun to watch at an affordable price.

However, as I found out by perusing a UN-O Mavericks hockey blog, there seems to be a silly fight going on between Omaha Knights fans & UNO Mavs fans.

I can't believe those with so much complain when there are those with so little (KC Hockey fans).

A UNO fan on the Knights

The idea that we should pay top dollar to a for-profit corporation half-owned by out of towners to watch second-tier professionals in a decaying building with what is by all accounts a blah game presentation out of loyalty to the city is parochial and bizarre.

Wow, is this guy spoiled. We hockey fans in KC would give anything to have a team half-owned, or heck, fully-owned by out-of-towners. To see, not second-tier professionals, but up-and-coming NHL stars would be a gift.

We saw second-tier professionals for one season in the UHL. It sucks. The AHL is not the UHL and these players are not second-tier.

(By the way, I anticipate but reject the argument that says, "Well, we'll never get an NHL club if we can't support an AHL club." I'm not sure the city's economics or demographics would ever support an NHL club, at least not in our lifetimes. And do we really think we're going to get an NHL club before, say, Houston?)

You are right there. Support for an AHL team has nothing to do with how an NHL team would be supported. And, it's "before KC" not "before Houston".

Indeed, the Omahan's soul is stirred more by an undersized, underskilled player who has a heart the size of the moon, playing each game though it was his last, than by a skilled but uninspired journeyman who wishes he were anywhere but Omaha.

Wow, another shot at AHLers. It's amazing how one city's Pinot (Manchester, NH) is another city's MD 20/20 (Omaha). Lots of fans love AHL hockey, me included.

I can also see the value of NCAA hockey, but can't help but have fond memories of watching Archie Irbe and Viktor Kozlov play in KC. I've been to Mavericks games and love them. But to say AHL hockey is played by "uninspired journeymen" is simply a cheap shot.

Maverick and Lancer fans are legendary for their fierce loyalty; have you ever run into a Lancer fan who had seats at Hitchcock for the Lancers' 0-48 inaugural season?

I remember that Lancer season. It was great fun to go to those games. Later the Lancers moved to Ak-Sar-Ben Arena when the race track was still up-and-running. The atmosphere in that place was awesome. As a matter of fact, I saw the 1980 US Olympic hockey team play an exhibition game in the old Ak-Sar-Ben arena.

The staggering arrogance of the Knights organization -- from bullying the owner of the trademark "Omaha Knights" to the "Best Best Best" campaign, is something that Maverick and Lancer fans took notice of. We might have considered checking out a few games had we been asked nicely, or had we been treated like the intelligent consumers of the product that we are. Instead, we were to feel shame for patronizing lesser programs.

OK, that's a very good point. Which, once again, proves my point that a hockey team's success in a market place is only as good as their marketing team. I harp on this subject a lot.

The Knights' marketing campaign is flawed in so many ways I don't know where to start.

Why would anyone launch a marketing campaign that may offend the very people they are trying to attract?

Stupid and arrogant.
(though I still like the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights name and logo)

One of the more interesting changes in the collective Omaha psyche over the last ten years is that we've stopped acting like jilted girlfriends, begging for love and attention from the outside. Instead, we've lost a few pounds, started exercising again, bought some new clothes and have started showing up at parties feeling great about ourselves and turning the heads of those who previously overlooked us.

Which is why I love Omaha. I loved it when I lived there and I still love it. My 2-year old daughter loves it, too. She's constantly babbling about the "Omaha Zoo".

Omaha, you have a gift. You can attend a hockey game for less than $20 on nearly every weekend of the Fall and Winter. Omaha, you have a hockey community to which only hockey fans in the Northeast US can relate.

Embrace it.

Stop the Knights Vs. Mavs Vs. Lancers syndrome and do everything you can to get all three to survive and thrive.

You have no idea how much you will miss one of them when they are gone. When I read about the IHL folding, I thought "that's too bad, but professional hockey will return to KC." I had no idea how much I would miss it or how long it would be gone.

All that being said, I can't wait for my annual trip up I-29 to see the Mavs (and, hopefully, the Knights this year, too).


At 10:26 AM, Anonymous dale said...

Get up to Des Moines and catch a Stars game, too! Great hockey in an OK town (hey, I kind of like Des Moines). Des Moines also has the Buccaneers USHL which has a huge following, and Des Moines metro is, what, 300k folks? Go figure...

My kids grew up with the Blades when we moved to KC in 1992 (we went to many many games every season til the IHL folded). I agree. Irbe! What a player! A future Hall of Famer. I'd love to see the AHL come to KC. Great hockey, great price.

At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather go to Des Moines than Omaha any time.

The hockey is a lot of fun in both places, but the rink in Iow a is nicer and Des Moines is great and has many stores that sell hockey gear while Omaha has one.

I miss the Blades and Outlaws.

At 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to live in Omaha & that town baffles me by having 3 teams. We aren't talking about a large metro area, yet, you have an AHL team, Div 1A team & USHL team....

At 6:58 PM, Anonymous drew murphy said...

How sad is it, when Omaha has 4 hockey teams, Des Moines has two, and KC has zippo.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Husker Mike said...

It may be possible in the long run for 3 hockey teams to survive in a market of Omaha's size.

However, that means none will THRIVE. Saturating the market with hockey is great for die-hard fans, but the oversupply makes games less compelling for local fans.

The AkSarBen Knights are having a terrible time finding an identity and developing an audience. That hurts Omaha hockey far more than the prestige of having an AHL team helps.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Greg said...

We are pretty lucky here in Omaha. I attend virtually all of the Mavs games, and a bunch of Knights games when they do not conflict with the Knights. The level of the Knights is great (when KC had the Blades we came down every year for a few games).



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