Oklahoma City Barons: Barons officials hope young Edmonton stars attract more fans

Oklahoma City's AHL team continues to build attendance numbers through marketing, but the addition of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle should be an extra boost.
by Michael Baldwin Published: October 15, 2012
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photo - OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS / AHL HOCKEY: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18) during the Barons Open Training Camp at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012.  Photo by Garett Fisbeck, The Oklahoman
OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS / AHL HOCKEY: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (18) during the Barons Open Training Camp at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City, Okla., Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Photo by Garett Fisbeck, The Oklahoman

“When we got here a lot of people didn't know what we were, yet,” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “They were used to the old team (Blazers) from the Central Hockey League. That name obviously had been branded around here for a number of years.

“People now know who the Barons are and that they had great success on the ice last year. Our office is doing a good job of branding our team and getting our players out in the community.”

Scott said he's seen similar situations in other markets.

“You wish in Year 1 you had 10,000 people at every game, but that's not the reality of minor league hockey. That's wishful thinking,” Scott said. “Historically, in most AHL cities, that's not the way it goes. Usually you build up.”

During the NHL lockout, American Hockey League games probably would be instant sellouts in Canada or traditional hockey markets in the U.S. In fact, some Edmonton fans might make the long trek to Oklahoma City to watch the Oilers' stars of the future.

Edmonton general manager Steve Tambellini is confident attendance will improve.

“Bob Funk Jr., has done a great job of putting a marketing, sales team together that should take this group to the next level,” Tambellini said.

The bottom line: Edmonton officials are ecstatic with the partnership with OKC and Prodigal Hockey, which operates the Oilers-owned franchise.

“I'm so proud of the work that Bill Scott and (coach) Todd Nelson have done,” Tambellini said. “This is one of the most professional minor league teams that you're going to encounter.

“The players love it here. They'll speak to what it means to play in Oklahoma City. We have no difficulty recruiting (players) to come to this city.”

The subplot the next few weeks is whether Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle and a talented young team can impact attendance in the middle of football season and when the NBA's Thunder start its season.

We'll find out soon enough.

The Barons (1-1-0) do not hit the road again until Nov. 4. The home opener Friday night against San Antonio begins a seven-game homestand over a two-week span at the Cox Center.

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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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