Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nicholls true to form in Adelaide

Former Brahmas forward makes an impact in his first start down under

Dan Nicholls didn't really know what to expect when he stepped off the plane at the Adelaide International Airport but the 24-year-old native of Whitby, Ontario was sure of one thing - he wanted to get on the ice as soon as possible.

Sidelined by a shoulder injury that's kept him from playing since March 25th, Nicholls missed out on the Brahmas' post-season run and returned home to continue his rehabilitation before preparing for his trip down under.

Nicholls arrived just hours before Saturday's game against the reigning AIHL champion Melbourne Ice, the first of a two-game weekend series. Adelaide won three out of four games against the Ice last season including both home games, but were eliminated by Melbourne on the road in the post-season Semi Final last September.

Nicholls was greeted by a representative of the team and after a 10 minute drive, got his first look at his new home ice, Ice ArenA Adelaide, a 1500-seat venue opened in 1981. Coach Ryan O'Handley opted not to play Nicholls on Saturday, giving him instead, a chance to rest from the nearly 21 hour flight from Toronto and the opportunity to watch his first Australian Ice Hockey League contest.

Not unlike his experience in the Central Hockey League, Nicholls witnessed a  tough and physical encounter that also saw sixteen penalties handed out.

The Adrenaline enjoyed a two-goal advantage at the end of both the first and second periods but Melbourne kept fighting back and scored the first two goals early in the final frame to tie the game 4-4. The Adrenaline scored the next two, once again giving themselves that two-goal buffer.

With the game intensifying, the Adelaide gave away two soft penalties giving Melbourne a two-man advantage with just under three minutes left to play. While Melbourne did find the back of the net, Adelaide held the Ice out for the remaining minute and a half to secure the 6-5 win.

On Sunday, Nicholls was ready to go and suited up for the first time in an Adrenaline sweater, number 14. The former Brahmas wrecking ball performed exceptionally well, producing a couple of hits that literally rocked the IceArenA. 

Unfortunately, the Adrenaline’s penalties were costly - Melbourne’s two regulation goals were scored during power plays in the second period. The team was also rocked midway through the frame, when Josef Rezek took what appeared to be an elbow to the head at center ice. Rezek was eventually assisted from the ice after losing consciousness and suffering some dizziness but the tough Czech was able to return to the game in the third period and assisted on Dan Nicholls' equalizing goal, his first in the AIHL.

The contest went into overtime but there was no resolution and Melbourne took the win in a shootout. 

Despite the 2-3 loss, Adelaide took four out of a possible six points and in their first three games remain undefeated in regulation to sit in third place in the AIHL's Eastern Conference.

The Adrenaline will play a two-game road series against the Gold Coast Blue Tongues this coming weekend.

Photo Credit: Frank Kutsche

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wichita Thunder players in happier times
The Texas Brahmas Curse continues...

Wichita defeated in the 2012 President's Cup Finals

So it doesn't pay to beat the Brahmas in the playoffs does it? To date, no team that has eliminated a Wildfong-coached Brahmas team in the post-season has won any series that followed.

2008 - The Colorado Eagles defeat the Brahmas in the semi-finals 4-3 and is swept by the Arizona Sundogs 4-0 in the President's Cup Finals.

2009 - N/A...Brahmas win President's Cup.

2010 - The Odessa Jackalopes defeat the Brahmas 4-2 in the semifinals and are eliminated 4-3 by the Allen Americans in the Conference Finals.

2011 - The Odessa Jackalopes defeat the Brahmas 3-1 in the opening round and are eliminated by the Allen Americans 3-2 in the Conference Semi-Finals.

2012 - The Wichita Thunder defeat the Brahmas 4-2 in the Conference Finals and are defeated by the Fort Wayne Komets 4-1 in the President's Cup Finals.

Don't mess with Texas...'nuff said.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Dan Nicholls arrives down under

Brahmas winger eager to begin second pro season

He was a wrecking ball on ice and a fan favorite for the Texas Brahmas and now Dan Nicholls is heading for his new team, the Adelaide Adrenaline, and the start of his second pro season in the Australian Ice Hockey League.

Nicholls arrived in Australia today but is not expected to play immediately as he continues to mend a shoulder injury sustained at the end of the regular season.

Nicholls played 43 games during his rookie season with the Brahmas this season and notched 14 points ((6 G, 8 A, -2) and 58 penalty minutes.Prior to joining Texas, he played six games with the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees and eight games with the Fayetteville FireAntz (SPHL).

A graduate of Cornell University (ECAC), Nicholls played four seasons with the Big Red and played three years of Junior Hockey with the Bowmanville Eagles (OPJHL.

The Adrenaline lost their season and home opener in a 3-2 shootout against the Canberra Knights. They won the first game of a two-game series at home today against the Melbourne Ice by a score of 6-5. The second game will be played tomorrow.

The team plays at The Ice ArenA in Thebarton, South Australia. Nicholls will join three other Canadian imports on the team including Brett Liscomb, Mike Werner and goaltender Aaron Barton.

You can visit the Adelaide Adenaline's website here and the AIHL website here.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Stars in Fort Worth?

Maybe the Star-Telegram's Bud Kennedy should consider moving to, well, anywhere but here 

"If I were new Stars owner Tom Gaglardi, I'd be watching the basketball playoffs very closely. The success and spirit we're seeing in Oklahoma City would be the welcome that pro hockey would find here." - Bud Kennedy

My first reaction after reading Bud Kennedy's article in this morning's Star-Telegram was less than positive. You can read it yourself here. Be sure to leave a comment whether you agree with me or not.

To suggest that, and I quote, "the Stars would be better off in Fort Worth" than in Dallas on the basis of the Oklahoma City Thunder's success is nothing less than a foolhearty notion.

"Nobody ever thought Oklahoma City was big enough for major-league sports."

Sure, the Thunder are doing well in OKC. They were 13th in home attendance in the NBA this season. Awesome. But that's a natural Basketball Market. And there's not a lot else to do there. And they're in the playoffs. Wow, nice seat you've got on the bandwagon there, Bud. 

The Dallas Mavericks on the other hand, were number three in attendance - competing with the Stars at the American Airlines Center, the Texas Rangers at the Ballpark in Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys at Jerryworld for the Metroplex's professional sports entertainment dollars. Probably not competing with TCU's Horned Frogs, the Fort Worth Cats, the Colonial, or the Texas Motor Speedway (in Fort Worth, but also in Denton County).

Now let's talk about professional hockey in Oklahoma City. The Central Hockey League's Blazers led the nation in minor-professional hockey attendance for years, only to be shut down and "replaced" by the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons (ranked 26th in attendance last season with an average of 3,684). And this is the top affiliate of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers. Obviously, someone should have left well enough alone.

Of course, the modern Central Hockey League doesn't count in the closed minds of people like Bud Kennedy who only look fondly on the days of the "old CHL" when teams like the Fort Worth Wings (1967-1974) and the Fort Worth Texans (1974-1982) played at the Will Rogers Coliseum.

Kennedy refuses it seems, to ever positively acknowledge the Fort Worth Brahmas, who brought professional ice hockey back to Cowtown in 1997 and played for nine seasons before they were in effect, run out of the city by a worthless mayor, an equally worthless city council and an especially worthless group running the Fort Worth Convention Center.

At the time, the Brahmas had gone through several seasons of poor performance on the ice and diminished attendance figures. But the organization, which was not making any profits, was still dedicated to  keeping professional ice hockey in Fort Worth.

But instead of working with the team, the powers that be fell hopelessly in love with the idea that the Fort Worth Flyers, an expansion team in the NBA's development league, would bring fans out to the FWCC in huge numbers. Only the gamble didn't pay off - the Flyers attracted no one and the team didn't return to Fort Worth for the 2007-08 season, as they were unable to make a profit.

The success and spirit we're seeing in Oklahoma City would be the welcome that pro hockey would find here.

It's been six years and a day since that Wednesday afternoon when I heard that the Fort Worth Brahmas would suspend operations for the 2006-07 season. After those nine seasons in Cowtown, the team was effectively homeless. I've never purposely traveled to or spent a dollar in Fort Worth since, nor do I intend to after the way the Brahmas organization was treated.

The Brahmas of course, lived to see another day, finding a new home at the NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills and have been a continuous force in the Central Hockey League for five seasons and counting now. The Brahmas have been to the playoffs for five consecutive years and won the 2009 Ray Miron President's Cup Championship.

I've always been thankful for the coverage that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram provides for the Texas Brahmas, but the team, their fans, and the Central Hockey League can do without Bud Kennedy, who apparently doesn't see the new CHL as "real ice hockey."

Kennedy seems to want to use what influence he has to undermine and sabotage the organization, rather than show some sort of support for 14 years of ice hockey provided for fans of the sport in Tarrant County. Despite Kennedy's feelings, there are thousands of fans in Tarrant County who have appreciated having the Brahmas and the Central Hockey League in the area for affordable family entertainment and competitive professional ice hockey.

So now Kennedy thinks he knows how to solve the Dallas Stars' problems - by suggesting they move to Fort Worth? It's obvious that he knows little about the challenges facing NHL, and all minor professional hockey teams throughout the country. Location isn't everything.

Buddy boy, the Stars have a lot of issues to work out, but moving the team is no solution. Besides, we've seen what kind of support that the City of Fort Worth has given to struggling hockey franchises in the past.

The Brahmas organization and the new regime in Fort worth have been working on re-building relations, including a two-date hockey series against the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees played at the Convention Center in March. There will likely be more dates played next season - a good start to bringing pro hockey back to Fort Worth. I might even consider heading out there next time and drop a few dollars into the Fort Worth economy.

Maybe Bud Kennedy should jump on the local bandwagon and help support the only pro hockey team to call Tarrant County home since 1997. And if not, I'm sure The Oklahoman can use another columnist.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Brahmas announce 2012-13 slogan contest

Win a "suite" prize

The Texas Brahmas, now in preparations for the 2012-13 season, have announced an exciting contest, offering fans the opportunity to submit suggestions for the team’s official slogan. 

The winner, which will be determined by the Brahmas’ staff, will receive a free suite to a Brahmas’ pre-season home game and $50 off at ZuRoma Sicilian Kitchen that night.

The slogan will be used on official Brahmas material such as the game program, pocket schedules and website, to name a few. The tagline for the 2011-12 season was “All In.”

To enter the contest, email your suggestions to jtannenbaum@brahmas.com, complete with your full name, address and contact information. 

Submissions will be accepted through this Friday, May 4th. The Brahmas’ staff will select a winner and announce the official slogan shortly thereafter.

Photo Credit: Robert Keith