"2006-2007: The Search for Hockey" Hits a Couple Snags
Granted I went to a mere 1 Cleveland Barons AHL game during my first two Cleveland winters, but this year was supposed to be different. From 2001-2002 to 2003-2004, the location where myself and my girlfriend spent the weekend was based on who was hosting a better opponent, my Boston University Terriers or her University of New Hampshire Wildcats. With her graduation and move to Cleveland coming in 2006, and the Barons featuring a pair of memorable UNH players in Josh Prudden and Garret Stafford, our date option of choice for my final year in Cleveland seemed assured. Then two things happened:
-The Barons moved to Worcester.
-The QuickenLoans Arena purchsed the dormant Utah Grizzlies AHL franchise... but announced the new team wouldn't launch until 2007-2008.
So staring a hockey-less year in the face, two developments took place:
-It was announced that BU would be playing in the IceBreaker Tournament in Oxford, Ohio, celebrating the opening of Miami University's new arena, along with Cornell and Western Michigan. Knowing, perhaps, more Miami U. alums in Cleveland than any other school, and more Miami U. fans than any other school besides Ohio State, plans for a 4.5 hour road trip entered the theoretical stages.
-I noted that a junior team, the Cleveland Jr. Barons, played in the NAHL, and boasted alumni which included BC's Peter Harrold and Maine's Colin Shields... surely this could provide decent entertainment for at least a few games this season.
In the past few weeks, however, a couple developments emerged:
-BU was awarded hosting duties for 2007's IceBreaker. Since a school can only exempt the same tournament from their games limit once every 4 seasons, they dropped out of this years installment, opening the door for Vermont to take their spot this season. I'd still like to go... but the tournament has certainly lost some of it's luster.
-I spotted the NAHL's divisional alignment for next season today. The Jr. Baron's were notably absent. There's no notice of what happened on either the team's or the NAHL's websites, and there is no coversation about it on various message boards (strange considering the uproar the collapse of the 3 Montana based franchises caused last month). From the look of the Jr. Baron's site, they may have joined the ranks of the lower ('B' or 'C') junior leagues, taking them from a spectator sport to a 'friends and family' affair. Crap.
Any advice for where to catch hockey in Greater Cleveland this winter is greatly appreciated.