E-Mail Subscriptions to the Blog

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Cincinnati minor league hockey

Take a look through the blog and you'll find hints of the love-hate relationship I've had as a Wolves fan with Cincinnati hockey. In 2005 I was the person to spread bags of yellow feathers around the Allstate Arena to celebrate the final game of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks.

Throughout the spring the Robinson family, owners of the AHL franchise in Cincinnati, have been leading a campaign to bring the AHL back. Early on they declared they needed 2000 deposits of $25 each for 2006-7 season tickets. In early March they warned that they hadn't received that level of committment yet and launched a final push.

On April 4 they ended the campaign in failure, about 400 short of the goal.

The anger of the Cincinnati fans was understandable and is best expressed in this post by the owner of the noted hockey web site Heckler's Grove:

Support Not There For AHL / RailRaiders

Well folks, after over 6 months and countless pleas by the RailRaiders staff, fans and other concerned groups such as the Greater Cincinnati Blueliners Club, Cincinnati hockey fans have failed to respond in numbers sufficient enough to allow the franchise to move forward. As a result, RailRaiders President and CEO has announced that the RailRaiders AHL franchise is to be sold and the AHL will leave Cincinnati for good.

The RailRaiders have reached the bridge, and the tracks were taken out by the apathetic fans who either wanted to wait until they knew who the affiliate was, who wanted to see a schedule, who wouldn't support something that wasn't "major league", who thought the 2,000 deposit number was a "marketing ploy", or who simply refused to support hockey at Cincinnati Gardens. A simple $25.00 fully refundable deposit was all that was required - absolutely no risk - but enough so-called "hard core hockey fans" refused to do it and the goal was never reached. Many of you will never know how close the number actually was, but I personally believe that the group of people I mentioned above would have been enough to push the RailRaiders over the top so they could play in October of 2006.

Some "marketing ploy", eh?

Instead, Cincinnati will never see the American Hockey League again. And if you think for one minute the NHL will come to Cincinnati any time soon, then I want some of the drugs your on so the pain I feel in my gut and in my heart right now can be dulled for just a little while.

There are going to be a ton of questions by fans, especially from those of us who put down our money early in the campaign. I'll do my best here to explain the reasoning why the franchise couldn't move forward with fewer than the propertied "2,000 deposits" that were requested since October 20th of 2005.

At the end of the day, financial stability was what the RailRaiders needed to achieve. The "2,000 Full Season Ticket" number was an easy way for fans to grasp the need for approximately $1.0 million dollars of guaranteed revenue. If you divide $1.0 Mil by the average season ticket price, you'll discover a number somewhat close to 2,000, and that's a number that is easier for the average consumer to understand.

Financial advisors set that goal to make sure the franchise had a chance to keep losses at a reasonable pace. Believe it or not, the goal in most sports franchises is not to make money, but to not lose much money. So, until the financial goal was reached (in the name of 2,000 FST's), the accountants would not let the franchise secure an affiliation, and at the end of the day there wasn't enough community support early enough to get it done.

If the goal would have been reached by March 1st or earlier, the RailRaiders would have had anywhere from 3 to 5 different affiliate options from which to choose. As the campaign dragged on into March, fewer and fewer options were available until - finally - no more options were left. But it's important to note that the sole reason why a deal couldn't be struck was the deposit level never reached the threshold of $1.0 Mil by the time affiliations options dried up.

The amount of new business generated by the RailRaiders sales staff was approximately 60% of the received deposits. That statistic shows how successful the franchise was at getting the word out and engaging the general public. The "fans" I listed in the first paragraph all knew the score. They were paying attention and heard the message. They either chose not to believe the organization (and it a way, who could blame then? They've been lied to for years by others...) or chose not to care. We are left with zero top quality hockey in Cincinnati. We will never again be privy to Cincinnati players like Eric Cole, Jaroslav Svoboda, Josef Vasicek, Joffrey Lupul, Chris Kunitz, Michael Holmqvist, Kurtis Foster, Ryan Getzlaf, or visiting players such as Jonathan Cheechoo, Jason Spezza, Niklas Kronwall just to name a few. It's a shame, but that is now Cincinnati's reality

To those of you who put down deposits and supported this effort, thank you for being a part of the solution. There was a tremendous amount of new business and old AHL fans that reportedly made it back by the deadline. It's unfortunate, but we will now have to live without good quality hockey thanks in part to a handful of people who - through the spread of lies, misinformation or whatever else - have failed to put the past behind them. It can be said without question that the staff of the Cincinnati RailRaiders did not lie to the fan base. They said they needed a set amount of revenue (2,000 FST's) or it wouldn't move forward. It did not reach the goal, and it will not move forward.

Will another team call Cincinnati Home? Will lower level hockey make another go in Cincinnati? Probably, but it will require sufficient fan support. A lease will need to be put in place and ticket prices will be AT LEAST what the RailRaiders were asking for to see the stars of tomorrow. Without the support of the community, it will be a money loser for whoever tries it and it won't last more than a season.

All of the fans have lost for the 3rd and final time - this is the end of the rail...

In the end, I doubt if there is a real need for this web site. After some time, Heckler's Grove will probably be just another memory of Cincinnati's storied hockey history. I'll make that decision in the coming days. However, I want to take this opportunity to thank a bunch of people who have made the last 5 years of my life within hockey circles fun and gratifying.

To all of my friends who I've come to know, thank you for your friendship and support of Heckler's Grove over the years. There are people who have contributed graphics and other content to these pages - HockeyRaven - you are the best!. To all of the great fans of Heckler's Grove, we made a great run of it while we were there. We'll never know how good it could have been.

I would like to especially thank the following people who have supported me and those of us in Heckler's Grove. Without their support and consent, Heckler's Grove wouldn't have even been a "thing":

Pete Robinson - for giving Cincinnati the chance to have the best available to us. Pete - I'm sure you had a lot of explaining to do with some of my signs on the "Heckler's Grove Wall of Love". Thank you for letting us have our fun. I wish the rest of the fans would have stepped up to support your vision - I'm so sorry that we couldn't get it done.

To the Ducks / RailRaiders ticket staff of Richard Elvin and "Big" Mike Amshoff. You knew how to treat a season ticket holder right. Please don't be discouraged by the events the way they unfolded - you guys really understand what it takes, and you did an awesome job.

To former employees Tom Gariety, Donn Bagnell, Steve Cowell - God only knows how good it could it have been if you wouldn't have been held back. You all saw the vision too, but realized that there were some fans in this city who just don't get it.

To Don Helbig. I've learned a lot more about hockey from you than most people have forgotten. Thank you for the friendship, insight, and trust you showed me over the time you have known me. You never lied to the fans - you didn't say what they wanted to here, you told them the truth. No one can expect anything more than that from a person, or an organization.

To all of you - thank you for giving Cincinnati this opportunity. Of course, some of the community responded. All of the new business that was generated is a testament to how successful your efforts were. I and many others think you have absolutely done a fantastic job- it was the disgruntled "fan" that let you - and the rest of us - down. Please hold your heads high, as you were able to sell a name and a logo and do better than any organization since the WHA Cincinnati Stingers. You guys deserve better - I only wish the outcome was different, because it would have been awsome...

Make no mistake about it - people are going to second guess every motivation and every action that was made by the RailRaiders staff. They're going to say "they didn't do 'X' " or "they should have done 'Y' ". But to hell with those people. They didn't have their money or their jobs on the line. You did - and you will all pay the ultimate price thanks to the people who wouldn't put down a fully refundable deposit for the 2nd best hockey league in North America.

Lastly, to all of you who thought I didn't know what I was talking about over the last 6 months, I have four words for you:


And in the best tradition of Heckler's Grove, I've got too more words for you:


We'll never know what could have been. But at least it wasn't "never was", and the memories of the great times watching and playing hockey will always remain a part of me. Hopefully, history will not judge us too harshly. I can be comfortable knowing that I was on the right side of this issue, even though I will be remorseful that we have lost something that we held in our hands.

Best regards everyone,

Jim Questa
Founder of Hecklers Grove.

Yesterday this story took a strange turn. The Cincinnati Cyclones ECHL franchise announced it will return to play:

Professional Hockey Officially Returns To Cincinnati
Date: April 20, 2006

Contact: Sean Lynn

Cincinnati, OH –U.S. Bank Arena proudly announces that after suspending operations the past two seasons, the Cincinnati Cyclones will participate in the 2006-2007 ECHL season.

The team will rejoin the ECHL’s American North Division. The upcoming season will be the Cyclones fourteenth overall season. The team originated in 1990 as part of the ECHL before moving to the IHL in 1992. The Cyclones returned to the ECHL in 2001.

Season tickets are on sale now. Prices for the 36 game home season are: VIP Seats located within the first 2 rows from the ice $720, neutral zone seats (straightaways) $540, & endzones are $360. Half season packages are also available for $360, $270, and $180 respectably. Single game tickets will cost $22.50, $17.00, & $12.00 and will be available at a later date. Season tickets can be ordered by calling 513-421-PUCK (7825). More information on season ticket packages is available at www.cycloneshockey.com.

“It is our distinct pleasure to bring hockey back to Cincinnati,” said U.S. Bank Arena/Nederlander Chief Financial Officer Ray Harris. “We have been working on bringing back the Cyclones for months and are excited to see our hard work come to fruition. We feel strongly that Cincinnati will support this team. We are dedicated to bringing the people of Cincinnati a great product come October.”

“We are thrilled to have Cincinnati back in the ECHL,” commented ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna. “We see Cincinnati as a vital part of the league’s success and we share the organizations feelings that the community will support this team. The Cyclones history combined with a first class facility such as U.S. Bank Arena should make for a great season of hockey and a great future for Cincinnati hockey and the ECHL.”

The reaction of the fans is complicated. I wouldn't say there is complete support for this ECHL expansion into Cincinnati. Add to this the Cyclones history of affiliation with the San Jose Sharks, a team that has already burned Ohio residents, albiet in Cleveland.

No comments: