Tonight the Pittsburgh Penguins pushed the Stanley Cup to a decisive game 7, giving die-hard hockey fans one last great game of the season.
Today, the Dayton Gems made their official announcement to return to Hara Arena in the fall. It’s not the same team, or even the same league although the names are the same- and even some of the staff- with Warren Back and Guy Trottier on board.
The “International Hockey League” or IHL is far from international, or really much of a league- with six teams, all within an easy bus trip from each other. It’s not a developmental league like the ECHL, or affiliated with anything glamorous like the NHL; it’s workingman’s hockey, to be played in a hockey barn that time has forgotten, for all the right reasons.
The league understands that hockey is a fast, physical sport- and is even bringing in a 19th man to the roster- a “utility man”- which translates to “Goon” to those who know the game. It’ll be a hall where you can call the ref an idiot, spill your beer on the floor (as long as you buy more) and scream to vent the weeks frustrations and feel great about it the next day. It won’t cost a fortune and there won’t be “luxury boxes” and ways to blow the corporate expense account (if they still exist).
If you remember the movie “Slap Shot” with Paul Newman, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about- less the Hanson brothers and “foiling up.”
The Wamplers built that building in farmland, before the Salem Mall, RIP, and the Trotwood connector, or any talk of TIFs or handouts from government. They still own it, even though they’ve had to compete with facilities paid for with tax dollars, like the Dayton Convention Center, the Nutter Center, and even the Schuster (many Daytonians saw their first concert there).
It’s an honest effort, by honest people to put on very honest hockey.
There hasn’t been one request for a handout, tax increase, or new building to be built or financed with tax dollars. Refreshing.
So, why wasn’t the head of the Dayton Chamber of Commerce there? The Mayor of Dayton, the County Commission? Will they beat the business community over the head to buy season tickets like they did for the Dragons? Not a chance. Just the Trotwood Mayor and Commission, who I’ve worked with before- and found to be well meaning people who care deeply about their community.
We’ll hear all kinds of naysayers and negativity, but not from this aging hockey player. I’m not going to rush out and buy season tickets, because I just can’t commit to tying up that many evenings, but, I’ll definitely scrape up some money to buy some vouchers for a few nights of hockey once they get their site up at www.daytongems.net
I’d urge you to as well. Because this will be our team- the team of the workingman, with aspirations to be exactly what we are. There will be no prima-donnas on the ice- or in the stands, just people who love the game of hockey- played the way it should be played, for the love of the game.
Go Gems. And, even though I like both teams- Go Pens, because they are the underdogs in Game 7 in Detroit, and I always root for the underdog.