The biggest issue for Oklahoma hockey isn’t the play on the ice. From a first season, first round playoff performance to a sophomore year Western Conference Final appearance, the game isn’t the issue. It’s not the players. High paid AHL All Stars, vet goaltenders with serious NHL experience, and youngsters primed for stardom, that’s not the issue. Instead, it’s the sell of the game. With two great seasons in the books, and a third likely blowing the door off any notion that Oklahoma City hockey is “minor”, the attendance on the Oilers farm needs to go up.
A trio of players named Jordan, Ryan, and Justin are here to hopefully help.
Today, Bill Scott spoke about that very thing.
“It is very exciting to have these three players in Oklahoma City, they are all extremely talented and will bring a unique skill set to our team.” said Barons General Manager Bill Scott. “Ryan and Jordan have already established themselves as elite talents and playing in OKC this year will only help to further their development as it gives them a chance to solidify their game while playing alongside other top prospects. Justin was the most sought-after college free agent this offseason with tremendous potential. It will be a great opportunity for him to begin his professional career in OKC with the rest of our prospects who are the future of the organization. The last lock-out season in 2004-05 made the AHL the best hockey league in the world for that season and the development time given to such players as Eric Staal, Jason Spezza, Ryan Miller, Patrice Bergeron and others proved to be instrumental in laying the foundation for excellent careers and we expect the same results for these players while they are in OKC.”
To hand over two of the best young players in the world, and another high-end prospect to the GM of an AHL team has to be a moment to remember for Bill Scott. Scott, of course, has seen his share of AHL movers and shakers as a head honcho in the league office before committing to OKC. But none likely compare to the season on the horizon.
Some more food for thought (via Barons release):
When Nugent-Hopkins plays for the Barons, he joins a short list of six athletes that have been selected #1 overall in their particular sport and played professionally for a team in Oklahoma City. Most recently, Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, the #1 overall selection in the 1999 Major League Baseball draft, played for the Oklahoma City RedHawks in a conditioning stint during the 2009 campaign. Other #1 overall selections to play with the RedHawks include Adrian Gonzalez (2000 MLB Draft) and Kris Benson (1996 MLB Draft).
Hockey is the only other sport to have a #1 overall selection play with the professional team in Oklahoma City. Barry Gibbs (1966 NHL Draft), Rick Pagnutti (1967 NHL Draft) and Bob Neely (1973 WHA Draft) were #1 overall selections by teams in the highest level of play. Each played for the Oklahoma City Blazers in the early days of the Central Hockey League.