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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Comment from Heckler's Grove

Hiya Patrick,

Thanks for emailing me - it's always good to converse with another
hockey fan - especially from Chicago where I've had some great
experiences. :)

Go ahead and keep the quote from Heckler's Grove. I would appreciate it if you'd provide a link though. Thanks. Click inside the preceding hyper link to visit Heckler's Grove, or see the sidebar. Thanks

And I'd be glad to comment on the current situation:

The resurrection of US Bank Arena's dormant ECHL franchise is no real surprise. The RailRaiders were able to secure a large number of full season ticket deposits - somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,660 by the end of the drive. This is more full season ticket holders than any Cincinnati hockey team since the WHA Stingers. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough for the financial people who hold the Cincinnati AHL franchise to move forward, but that number seams to have piqued the interest of the Nederlanders.

I think the people running "Cyclones IV" believe the typical Cincinnati hockey consumer either doesn't know or won't care whether they're watching the AHL or the CHL, or that the experience at US Bank Arena will be that much better than what was offered at Cincinnati Gardens, even though the American Hockey League is clearly a superior product. In my opinion, this is a huge miscalculation.

Since Cincinnati moved from the ECHL to the International Hockey League in 1992, Cincinnati hockey fans have been watching future NHL players and highly skilled teams from Chicago, Orlando, Grand Rapids, and Cleveland (all IHL cities at the time). For the period of time where the Ducks and Cyclones were playing at the same time, you can include teams from Louisville, Lexington, Hershey, and Philadelphi (all AHL cities at the time). Cincinnati's fan base became split, but were still watching future NHL stars no matter what team they followed or what arena they attended. When the International Hockey League folded and the ECHL was brought in to fill the void at US Bank Arena, the Cyclones fans held out - at first. However, many realized that the ECHL's product was much different - sloppier and slower - and some either came to watch the AHL at the Gardens, or stopped going altogether.

After talking with many Cincinnati hockey fans over the past 6 months, it has become evident that most have become accustom to the speed, grace and agility that is the American Hockey League.

Cincinnati's fans have become used to seeing players like Lupul, Kunitz, Cole, CheeChoo, Kronwall - players that are tearing up the NHL record books - and they don't want to settle for less. Many people putting down deposits for the RailRaiders wanted to make sure they were buying a ticket to the American Hockey League, and they weren't going to spend that kind of money for a lesser product. Unfortunately, that's exactly what "Cyclones IV" are offering Cincinnati's hockey fans - less of a product for more money.

There is one more thing that has twisted this market. The RailRaiders fell 340 Full Season Tickets short of the goal. On average, a single person will purchase 2.3 tickets, so approximately 160 people could have made the difference. I believe there were enough people who either didn't want to attend games at Cincinnati Gardens, didn't like the RailRaiders ownership group, believed in the many lies and exaggerations that have been perpetuated over the years when Cincinnati had 2 teams, etc. The fact that the fan base remained divided and couldn't get over whatever issue one might have had was the net cause the RailRaiders ticket campaign fell short.

However, those same people expect those of us who have given our heart and soul to the AHL effort to simply turn the other cheek and support the ECHL. For some, that's simply not going to happen, so Cincinnati's fan base will remain split. The owners of the Gardens still own an AHL Franchise, but it's likely the return of the ECHL in this market will block the possibility of the AHL taking the ice for 2007- 8, and they'll end up selling the franchise instead of finding another way to make it work. If the ECHL fails to get the support it will need to remain viable - and I believe that would require 4,000 + paid tickets a game on average - I can't see the Nederlanders throwing millions away every year on this experiment. I don't believe the Nederlanders understand the Cincinnati hockey market or how savvy most Cincinnati hockey fans are. I also believe another failure of professional hockey in Cincinnati could jeopardize a quality product from returning to Cincinnati for more than a decade - if ever.

It's just another chapter in the sick and crazy world of Cincinnati professional ice hockey.

Best regards,

Jim Questa from Heckler's Grove

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