Oklahoma City Barons: Barons looking for new die-hards in a competitive market

AHL team competing against Thunder, Sooners, Cowboys, RedHawks, casinos — yet Barons are confident they can fit in.
by Michael Baldwin Published: April 17, 2013
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photo - AHL HOCKEY / PLAYOFFS: Barons' mascot, Derrick, interacts with the crowd during a game between the Oklahoma City Barons and the Toronto Marlies at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, May 18, 2012.  Photo by Garett Fisbeck, For The Oklahoman
AHL HOCKEY / PLAYOFFS: Barons' mascot, Derrick, interacts with the crowd during a game between the Oklahoma City Barons and the Toronto Marlies at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, May 18, 2012. Photo by Garett Fisbeck, For The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City has a rich Triple-A hockey tradition.

From 1965 to 1982 the city served as the Triple-A affiliate for NHL teams in Boston, Toronto, Minnesota and one season with Calgary.

But a lot has changed in OKC the past three decades between Triple-A hockey teams.

Oklahoma City fans are devoted to the Thunder, a widely popular NBA team.

Prodigal CEO Bob Funk Jr. runs the Barons. His family owned the Blazers for a dozen years but disbanded the Central Hockey League team four years ago. Funk replaced them a year later with the Barons, the Triple-A team affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

“What you've seen in this community the past two decades is higher standards for what we expect of ourselves and how we spend our money,” said OKC Mayor Mick Cornett. “I think the days of that Blazers' phenomenon are long gone.

“The city is a new place. It may seem the same buildings and same city, but it's not the same city. The challenges are different.”

The Barons, in their third year, averaged 4,155 fans their first season, but attendance has dipped to 3,500 this season, last in the 30-team American Hockey League.

“I think a lot of it is the euphoria of the Thunder. It just is,” said OKC city manager Jim Couch. “The Barons have a very strong, loyal base that's passionate, but the competition is tough.”

Getting fans to devote time to attend a hockey game or two each season is Funk's biggest challenge.

The Thunder has 41 regular-season home dates, plus the playoffs. Fans support the Sooners, Cowboys and school activities. Remington Park and casinos are additional entertainment options. So are the RedHawks once the spring season arrives.


by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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