OKC Barons: Prime playoff dates are hard to come by for Barons

Ideally, the Barons would host American Hockey League playoff games on weekend dates, but the Cox Convention Center is booked for seven graduation days this month, including five weekend dates.
by Michael Baldwin Published: May 12, 2013
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photo - Tyler Pitlick with the Oklahoma City Barons eyes the puck beside Tyler Ruegsegger of the Abbotsford Heat during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
Tyler Pitlick with the Oklahoma City Barons eyes the puck beside Tyler Ruegsegger of the Abbotsford Heat during an AHL hockey game at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Friday, April 19, 2013. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

Another variable is scheduling around the Thunder's NBA playoff schedule.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Funk said. “We don't know what the Thunder's playoff games (from round to round) are going to look like.”

Relocation costs to move graduation ceremonies can cost as much as $20,000 a game. Part of the relocation costs are tied to crews building a stage and removing seats at Chesapeake. After graduation ends, the crew must set up the court and reinsert seats for Thunder games.

Last year, the Barons used that strategy once to move Deer Creek's graduation to Chesapeake during the Western Conference finals against Toronto.

“It doesn't make any sense for us to do that in the early rounds,” Funk said. “But if we get to the third round (Western Conference finals) or fourth round (AHL finals), then it might make sense to spend the money to move things around a little bit.”

If the Barons advance that far this time, graduation ceremonies might not be an issue because of where Oklahoma City is seeded.

Seeded fifth, the Barons are the lowest remaining team in the Western Conference. If they win the second round series with the Texas Stars, then Oklahoma City would start the Western Conference finals on the road. Last year, they were the top seed and started the Western Conference finals at home.

Selling postseason tickets to minor league playoffs is a challenge in itself. Minor league playoff attendance in nearly every sport usually dips.

Group sales are essential to minor league organizations. But group sales are developed over time. Teams don't know their playoff dates until days before they host a playoff game.

“The first couple of rounds attendance isn't that great unless it's a place where hockey is really big like Hershey,” Barons coach Todd Nelson of the Pennsylvania town. “But once you get to the third and fourth rounds people start coming out.”


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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