Dean's Blog: Blazers To Return To Oklahoma City?
OKLAHOMA CITY - The five-year run of the OKC Barons of the AHL proved a couple of things. The team was good and the league is good. But that doesn't guarantee success when you get to the bottom line. And it makes Brad Lund's 1999 comment seem more believable: “OKC is not a hockey town. It's a Blazer town.”
The former President of the Oklahoma City Blazers told News 9 exclusively tonight that he is spearheading efforts to "Bring Back the Blazers.” That's code for finding someone to pony up the geeter and take over the ownership.
Back in 1992, the Double-A Central Hockey League was born on the plains; OKC got a team – the Blazers – and I advised Lund to take the gig but that it “wouldn't succeed.”
Over the next 17 seasons, the Blazers were the toast of the town, a page one story on a regular basis. They averaged 9,200 fans a game, led the CHL in attendance 17 straight seasons and led all of North America in minor pro hockey attendance five times.
On the ice, the Blazers were annually in the thick of the title chase, winning it all twice. Players became household names - Burton, Sauter, Dupont, Arvanitis, Filiatrualt. News 9 even televised games statewide. It was a big deal.
In 2009 the franchise ceased operations - and in an ownership swap among family members - joined the Triple-A American Hockey League, and named the team the Barons as part of the NHL's Edmonton Oilers.
Despite putting a better product on the ice, the Barons struggled at the box office, some claiming they failed to develop a local identity. They announced in December that season number five would be its last in OKC.
Of course the success of the Thunder has played a major role in almost every aspect of business in this market. It's unknown to what degree that organization and the money, fannies and media attention it attracts would have on a Blazers Part Two.
I'm not sure of the financial details of a future transaction. But what I am sure of is Blazers Hockey was a phenomenon our fine city had never seen. And there are lots and lots of avid fans out there thirsting for hockey. And many more thirsty for hockey's version of Thirsty Thursday.
I hope for all concerned that the Blazers return and once again rock The Myriad (now called the Cox Center) once again.