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Assessing The Market: Cincinnati

May 19, 2010

I’m in the habit of taking road trips to watch hockey, so I figured I should start writing about those experiences. Since no two cities are the same, it seems best that I focus on the hockey market itself and give a general sense of what hockey is like in that city.

Now it should be said in the pursuit of fairness that most of my assessments will be made off of one visit. While this is a small sample size and does not properly encapsulate the market, first impressions are the most important ones.

Perhaps suffering from live hockey withdraws or from a general desire to go on a road trip, myself and two friends went to game three of the Kelly Cup Finals. This year’s ECHL championship features the Idaho Steelheads and the Cincinnati Cyclones. Cincinnati made it to the Kelly Cup Finals via a historic 3-0 comeback in the American Conference Final against the Reading Royals. Going into last night the Cyclones held a 2-0 lead in the series.

This road trip accomplished several things, one of them being that although I claim the Cyclones as my ECHL team, I had never attended one of their games. Along with that, I had never experienced the game in the Queen City and I desperately wanted to watch live hockey.

Upon entering “the Natti,” I came to the same realization I always do about Cincinnati. That being, Cincy is not a place I like. It’s fine though, Cincinnati is not the worst place on Earth. It’s not even the worst city in the Midwest. I just don’t understand who the hell designed your road system. Additionally, why is your city so depressing?

My initial reaction to the exterior of US Bank Arena reminded me of Market Square Arena. The main area to enter the stadium is situated high above ice level, directly on the concourse. Once we entered the stadium I began to assess the environment I had just surrounded myself with. The first person I saw appeared to be some sort of vagrant with a plethora of jailhouse tattoos. What seemed even more shocking was that it appeared the guy was working for the team.

Immediately following that interaction, I found myself in front of a group of dudes you’d be likely to see at a hardcore show. Cincinnati does have a strong hardcore scene and given the parallels between the two cultures that I’ve written about on this blog, it was expected. In fact, if you don’t have people like that coming to your minor league hockey team’s games, it means one of two things:

1) Your city lacks a hardcore scene.

2) Your franchise has the worst advertising team in recorded history.

I digress.

Given what we had seen within moments of entering the stadium, we felt like Cincinnati could either be a fantastic minor league market or this would be a completely terrifying experience.

The only main issue we encountered the entire time came from finding our seats. While it was not difficult to find the general vicinity of our section, we had a problem determining exactly where the seats were. Our section was only properly labeled on one side, while the other side gave us an incorrect section number. Not a major issue, but one I have never encountered in my years of attending sporting events.

Once we finally located our seats, we were treated to possibly the greatest introduction ever. Imagine every popular song in the last 20 years that would be a great to have a team skate out to. Now take only the good parts of those songs and play them one after another. This was what greeted the Cyclones as they came onto the ice. With the exception of my times going to the United Center to watch the Chicago Blackhawks, never have I been so excited about the beginning of a game.

Although I wrote just recently about the fact this team only draws 190 more than the junior team in Indy, I was shocked by amount of empty seats. After all, this is the league championship.

Despite the lack of attendance, the fans that were there filled the arena with noise. One great thing about US Bank Arena is its low, flat ceiling, which makes the building quite loud. This is the same benefit the Sharks get from HP Pavilion.

Cincinnati is definitely a minor league market in terms of their fans. This is not meant to be derogatory in any manner either, in fact, I love minor league mentalities. The fans constantly hounded the opposing goaltender, participated in an arena wide “ahhhhhhhhhh…SIT DOWN” any time an opposing player went to the penalty box, and generally just acted like jerks to the visitors. It was wonderful.

There were other little things about this team that made me quite happy to consider myself a fan. One of them being the mascot, Twister. I know it is slightly childish, but I like mascots. This of course comes with some notable exceptions though. Twister was seldom seen during the game, but the fact that his number is “F-5” and his playoff beard makes him look like the tornado version of Rip Torn endeared him to me.

Another part of the team that all three of us enjoyed were the names of some of the Cyclones. One can never go wrong having players with last names such as Motherwell, O’Hanley, Zinger, Sproat, McKenzie and Van Guilder. Also having a number retired for a man named “Lawless” is never a bad thing.

One very idiotic thing that I witnessed during the game was a man in the front row attempting to set his empty beer bottles on the glass. What made this worse was when he attempting to build a pyramid out of the bottles. I’ve been told that apparently this is a reoccurring phenomenon at US Bank Arena.

The only negative thing I have to report about the whole experience, besides getting lost in Cincy after the game, was the commitment level of the fans. Last night’s name went into double overtime. After the first overtime concluded, a large amount of fans left the building. This is overtime in the league championship. You do not leave until a winner is decided! Although to be fair, at the end of the first overtime it was 11pm and it was a Tuesday evening. Some people had to go to work or school in the morning. I get it. Regardless though, you do not leave early.

Overall from this first impression of Cincinnati hockey, it’s pretty great. I’m not sure how much advertising the team does, but I would love to see their attendance numbers go up. Luckily, the team benefits from a very loud building. The fans are great and a lot of fun to be around and I will definitely be back next season for some more Cyclones games.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. SamDub permalink
    May 19, 2010 8:17 pm

    So it’s only 190 avg. attendance difference between the Indiana Ice and the Cyclones, not 300?

    • May 19, 2010 9:45 pm

      Yes. What I told you last night was incorrect. I thought it was slightly higher.

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