yankee hockey

STUCK IN THE MINORS

Posted in echl, stockton thunder, This Weeks Questions by yankhockey on December 1, 2008

Saturday was the first time this season I got to visit my local hockey team; The Stockton Thunder! Sure they may just be an ECHL team, and not an especially good one at that, but they’re mine team. Well, ok, they’re only my team cause for some reason Stockton, California (about 30 minutes or so south of Sacramento where I make my home) realized that it’s city, which is a quarter or mine, could support a minor league team. Meanwhile Sacramento has problems supporting their major league basketball team (a subject for a different blog however). I’m a little upset they beat us to it, the city of Sacramento has nearly 500,000 people living in it, and the metro area over 2 million, but this city struggles with putting public works together so it’s doubtful a place for a hockey team to play will ever be built here.

What’s the point of my little rant? Basically it’s that with San Jose two hours away, the Stockton Thunder! are my team. Every year I get a six game package for real cheap (cause who has the time to go to every ECHL game in a season), and head off with friends for an enjoyable evening of hockey. Truthfully, it is an enjoyable evening. The players never let you forget that you’re watching and ECHL game. Most of these guys will be lucky to get a sniff at the AHL, let alone the big show. The ones who show some promise get called up quickly leaving ECHL teams without enough talent to put on a top notch show. But, for the most part, that’s par for every team so the ice isn’t tilted in any ones favor. This is the kind of hockey you pay forty bucks for two seats for, and in the end it’s worth it.

The Stockton Thunder are currently a Coyotes farm team, and are hardly the most intimidating opponents in the league. Their first year they were a farm team for someone else… Nashville I think, and they stunk up the league. But the citizens of Stockton filled the arena every night. It was great to watch. An entire arena of people who had never seen hockey before but were dying to learn all about it so they could support their team. It was funny being the first one in the arena to cheer a goal while everyone else was trying to find the puck or waiting for the red light to flash. The second year they became an Oilers’ farm team and really began to rock. It was their most successful year, and the fans were getting better two. Last year was another stinker and this year isn’t looking much better. But who cares? I spent twenty bucks a ticket. They may be my team but I don’t have the kind of loyalty that makes me sad when they lose, I’m just glad to be able to drive a short distance away to watch an attempt at minor league hockey. I cheer for their goals, and moan for their goals given up, but whatever the outcome I leave happy.

This Saturday started out great with two pretty goals in the first period, followed by awful defense and sloppy forechecking for the next two. The final score was 4-2, beaten by the neighboring city team, the Fresno Falcons (how can Fresno and Stockton both have teams and not Sacramento!!!). The most fun part of the game, and often this is the case when I go, is explaining to the fans next to me how the game works. Some folks behind me had some confusion regarding game misconducts and boarding penalties. I think the best part was when the woman behind me said “But they push each other into the boards all the time and never get a penalty.” I think it’s important, as a hockey fan, to always help other people become better hockey fans. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about new fans because they don’t know how to watch or talk about the game. Well don’t tell them to piss off! Educate them. Lead them into the hockey bliss that veteran fans feel every time we hear a blade on ice, or a slap shot. I remember when FOX mad the puck glow red so viewers could follow it better and “true” hockey fans went nuts, like a slight glow ruins the nuance of the game. I fully supported the experiment, because if one more person said to themselves “Now that I can follow the puck, maybe I’ll watch the game.” Then that was one more hockey supporter in the world, and the sport really needs it.

In the end Stockton gave up an empty-net goal with .3 seconds left to play and my friend and I got up and shambled out of the arena. But unlike when I see my favorite professional team lose, we didn’t once complain about the officiating, or our teams work ethic, or that we had been cheated. We were laughing and enjoying ourselves. If any of you, dear readers, have a local minor league team, I suggest you go and support them, it’s all the fun without all the responsibility.

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

How many starts will Cory Schneider get while Luongo is out? What will Brian Burke’s first action as the Leafs’ GM be? Is this the week Brendan Shanahan gets signed? Can anyone stop the Sharks and their BlackArmor?

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One Response

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  1. Kelly said, on December 1, 2008 at 9:11 am

    Fresno has a hockey team? That’s… that’s weird to me.


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