Over the weekend the American Hockey League and the Prodigal group which being lead by Bob Funk Jr. officially announced that the name of the new American Hockey League team in Oklahoma City will be called the Oklahoma City Barons. This was announced on Wednesday afternoon in front of fans, media and Edmonton Oilers staff that will be helping to run the team from Edmonton, Alberta.
Now this I think will will go over very well with the fans in Oklahoma City regarding the name. First Oklahoma has a huge gas and oil industry (Especially out West). And it's just simply a natural fit as well to exist with the Edmonton Oilers as they look to not only generate success in the American Hockey League for the team and the city, but to send high quality players that will make the NHL.
Regardless if they are with the Barons for just a little while or if players have worked their whole careers to make the National Hockey League. Not to say the Oklahoma City Blazers weren't great, but this is a much higher level of hockey then the Central Hockey League and looking to bringing home an AHL Calder Cup is so much bigger then winning a CHL Presidents Cup.
One of the big questions is whatever or not that one of the top Oilers Prospects, Jordan Eberle who was 2nd overall in scoring last year with the WHL's Regina Pats as he scored 106 PTS (50G 56A) in just 57 games played this season. In addition to the WHL Regular Season, he also played for Team Canada at the 2010 World Junior Championships and the later part of the Ice Hockey World Championships that just wrapped up yesterday in Germany.
He's one of the team's best prospects right now that was drafted that was drafted in the 1st round (22nd overall) back in 2008. Oilers fans are hoping that he will join either Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall as the team has the first overall draft pick at next month's NHL Draft. Even if he doesn't make the NHL Right away, Eberle should fit in very well to help the Barons and excite OKC Hockey fans in their first season next year
Now that the Ownership and Team-name are figured out. Next up is finding out who will be the coach of the team. With their old AHL Affiliation (Springfield Falcons) having the absolute worst record in the AHL the last 2 years, this could be interesting as the team hasn't been able to figure out how to have success at the AHL Level.
In addition to the AHL, Even though the Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL) are not directly affiliated with them, part of the ownership also runs the Edmonton Oil Kings who finished last in the WHL Eastern Conference last year. In a year where some thought that could maybe fight for home ice in the early part of the playoffs, this were clearly one of this seasons biggest disappointments not just in the WHL, but throughout the entire Major Junior League last year.
All-and-all, fans should be excited to have the American Hockey League in Oklahoma City which will be at the Cox Convention Center as the city is redoing. The main reason why the team will play at the CCC and not the Ford Center is because they can have fewer schedule disputes with the Oklahoma City Thunder (NBA) and to help increase the loudest fan atmosphere possible as well.
I think an arena this size could be very successful as teams like the Texas Stars and Abbotsford Heat had arenas of similar or smaller size and have had a lot of success. This past season, the Texas Stars has been averaging around 5,000 fans all year and the Barons will hopefully employ same of the same strategries to make the 4th American Hockey League team work in the Southwest.
Here's some links to check out as the Oklahoma City Barons get ready to start their first season in October 2010.
Article from the Oklahoman: http://newsok.com/article/3462519
Oklahoma City Barons Website: http://www.okcbarons.com/
OKC Barons Pipeline: www.okcbarons.com/index.cfm?fa=pipeline
Cox Convention Center Seating Chart: www.okcbarons.com/index.cfm?fa=map
Oklahoma City Barons Store: http://shop.okcbarons.com/
OKC Barons on Twitter: http://twitter.com/OKCBaronsHockey
Only Jersey's, T-Shirts and Caps are available right now. Look for my items to come soon.
In addition to the Oklahoma City Barons, the Albany River Rats will be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina and will be called the Charlotte Checkers
Here's how I think the Division Alignment will look like for the 2010-2011 season.
Atlantic Division: Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Hartford Wolfpack, Lowell Devils, Manchester Monarchs, Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, Springfield Falcons, Worcester Sharks
East Division: Adirondack Phantoms, Binghamton Senators, Charlotte Checkers, Hershey Bears, Norfolk Admirals, W-B/Scranton Penguins, Syracuse Crunch
North Division: Abbotsford Heat, Hamilton Bulldogs, Grand Rapids Griffins, Lake Erie Monsters, Manitoba Moose, Rochester Americans, Toronto Marlies
West Division: Chicago Wolves, Houston Aeros, Milwaukee Admirals, Oklahoma City Barons, Peoria Rivermen, Rockford Icehogs, Texas Stars, San Antonio Rampage
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