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

No comments: