With the exception of four games during the NHL lockout, the Battle of Alberta had never managed to inspire box office success in the Fraser Valley. Last weekend saw a minor uptick, with the official attendance landing just north of 5,000. Sadly, the team’s average this year was nearly two grand fewer than that, which puts the City of Abbotsford on the hook for millions of dollars of guaranteed revenue support to the team. So yeah, instead of paying an uncertain sum at the end of each season for the next five years, Abbotsford will fork over $5.5 million here and now to have the team just… go away.
Does it matter that the Heat are on their way to the post-season? Is it important that blame can be thrown at everything from poor marketing to even worse public relations, from to smalltown politics to a bizarre, small-minded Canucks-or-nothing mindset in the Vancovuer area? No, nope, and nuh-uh. Sayonara, American Hockey League. Abbotsford City Council has homeless people to shame over here — they don’t have time for you any longer.
On the ice, the Heat have won eight of their last eleven, and hqve now tied their best-ever point total (92). With a tie or a win on Saturday, they’ll be saying adios after a franchise record under their belts. This despite sending record numbers of prospects up to the big club during a rash of injuries in the Calgary Flames locker room for extended periods this season.
The Abbotsford Heat hold their final homestand of the regular season this weekend, with games against the Oklahoma City Barons on Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
The Heat are riding high at the moment, having clinched a playoff berth after sitting out last year’s post-season. They are also celebrating goaltender Joni Ortio’s nomination to the AHL All-Rookie Team for 2013-14; Ortio has been a revelation in the Heat crease, netting 24 wins and two shutouts in just 34 games played. As well, left winger Sven Baertschi has knotted seven points in two games against the Rockford Ice Hogs last week, earning AHL Player of the Week honours.
The Barons have just four wins in their past ten games, and have lost four of the last five meetings with Abbotsford. This weekend marks a return for former Heat forward Roman Horak, who is the Barons leading scorer this season.
With five games left, the Heat sit in fifth place in the Western Conference, and are almost guaranteed to open the post-season against the St Louis Blues affiliate Chicago Wolves.
For those interested in ye olde arena foode, Friday night’s game features 3-2-1 pricing on beer, hot dogs and soda; if prizes are your thing, Sunday’s home finale offers fan appreciation giveaways, including jerseys and a freaking car.
Chris wears a shirt that is destined for ugly jersey greatness, offers to help cheer your opponents into oblivion, and makes an inappropriate comment about his ancestors. Jason is his usual smug, snickering self, but he scores a few points for adding some of Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven” into the opening of the podcast.
Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars
Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
Somebody Approved This: Grizzly Adams Halloween Jersey
Coming into Saturday’s game, the Oklahoma City Barons hadn’t scored in nearly seven periods of hockey. The streak went back to a game last weekend against the Houston Aeros, and the Abbotsford Heat contributed another five and a half periods of frustration for the visitors from OC.
In between were a massive Aeros comeback to win that game, and consecutive shutout losses to the San Antonio Rampage and this very same Heat squad. As overheard in the media room before puck drop, “Will the young stars show up tonight? Probably, seeing as they’re going to be on TV.”
(Want more pictures, video highlights and warblings from yours truly? You got it. But first, buy this book. Or don’t. Your call.)