I’ve been meandering my way down to New Orleans, through Las Vegas, NM (where they shot the city scenes in Red Dawn) and Roswell, NM. Saturday night will see me in Ft. Worth, TX for a game between the Texas Brahmas and the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees of the Central Hockey League.
On my way down, I got the nice surprise of a game on one of my bucket list teams, the Odessa Jackalopes. Yes, you heard me. Bucket list. Mind you, there are still a lot of teams on my bucket list, but this was one I wasn’t sure I was ever going to see. Odessa was on shaky ground before when they were part of the CHL, and along with several other team left the C for the financially friendlier confines of the NAHL. I would consider the N a step down from the C in that the CHL is a minor league while the NAHL is a junior league. Most of the kids in this league are playing for college scholarships or to be drafted. Many will not. The talent level in the CHL is well below the NHL, but in the NAHL, it’s still mired in development.
Still, Texas was, for a long time, the state with the most professional teams in the US. These days, it’s lost many of those teams to financial issues, some moving like the Jackalopes, and some shutting their doors completely (such as Lubbock). As the fortunes of the Dallas Stars have faded into the eventual bankruptcy and sale of the team, the rest of hockey in Texas seems to have followed suit. The junior ranks seem to be the right fit for some of these cities, at the least saving hockey from leaving completely in many of them (and wait to see how many more CHL teams leave next season).
So with that, let’s hit the road. First, the drive:
This is the World Arena in Colorado Springs, CO. It’s next door to the offices for USA Hockey.
This is not racist.
On my way in to Las Vegas, NM (which is not as exciting as the other Las Vegas), I did see a bright streak across the sky. I did not see any aliens. At least, not until I got to Roswell, NM.
It’s telling that the name of a mini-mall is The Landings at Roswell. Also, the most popular restaurant might be the local IHOP. And I saw a guy clipping his nails at a Starbucks under his table. Stay classy.
I did learn one travel tip: if one of the touted features of a hotel is it’s indoor pool, or has an indoor water park, something else will suffer, and it’s usually the service. If you don’t have a surly front desk attendant, consider it a lottery win.
On the road from Roswell to Odessa, I passed though the saddest town I have ever seen. And yes, I have been to Cleveland and Detroit. This was worse. I will spare you the poor photos I took, since they don’t really do justice to the sorry state of the place. If you have a batch of plywood to board up windows, you might make a small fortune in Tatum, NM. But it did have one bright spot:
But they also put ketchup on a chili burger. And that ain’t right.
I finally made it to Odessa, and was greeted with a rather… large… sight.
Whoa. There are times I go to a venue for the first time and I worry about the sight lines. I don’t know what I’m getting when I buy a ticket. This place has plenty of unobstructed seating. Plenty. I’ve been in bigger places, but they rarely feel this cavernous.
This is the penalty box. We will get to the penalties in a moment:
The hallways of the Ector County Coliseum, which would not handle a capacity crowd:
There were plenty of framed jerseys sprinkled around the halls as well. Here are a few, including a WPHL All Star jersey:
A few action photos:
One of the Corpus Christi players was hit in the side while prone on the ice, and was in considerable pain. It turns out the Rays don’t bring a trainer on the road with them, so the Jackalopes trainer has to attend to both team’s injuries. The juniors are a different world from the NHL.
I said we would talk about the penalties. 3:27 into the third period, the ref called an interference penalty on the Jackalopes, and sent Tyler Minx to the box. The problem was, Minx didn’t commit the penalty, Ryan Doucet did. Minx argued the point until he got an unsportsmanlike penalty as well. So this would be four minutes of 5 on 4 play, right? No, the ref finally realized the mistake he had initially made and send Doucet to the box for the interference. Now we have two penalties at the same time on two separate players, which meant that it was now two minutes of 5 on 3 play. Of course, were it not for the initial mistake made by the ref, there wouldn’t have been any unsportsmanlike penalty, as there would have been nothing to get ‘unsportsmanlike’ about. Still, the penalties were handed out, and as you would expect, the Rays scored… the game winning goal. Of course.
Minx certainly earned the unsportsmanlike penalty, and should have either shut up and gone to the box, or calmly made his case to the ref. Instead, he let his mouth get him in trouble and cost his team. I don’t blame him for being upset. He’s a defenseman who would probably been on the penalty kill, and he had scored both goals the Jackalopes wound up with for the game. Instead, he was sitting. Unjustly. Oh, the humanity.
What didn’t help was that shortly after, a Jackalope player kicked the puck into the net and the ref immediately waived the goal off. It was a good call, but after what had happened earlier, the Jacks fans were none too pleased with the ref. And they let him know. They even waived money at him, saying he was bought off.
Moving on, is this the creepiest looking mascot you’ve ever seen? If not, it might be up there.
Sleep tight. Hopefully you won’t dream of this thing chasing you down on an ATV:
Words are said:
At least they care about the environment:
At Laredo Bucks games, they throw ears of corn on the ice. At Texas Brahmas games, they throw purple Brahmas, the team mascot. In Odessa, they throw… carrots.
Holy cow, that’s a lot of photos. Enough already. The Rays win it 3-2.
Tomorrow, on the Fort Worth to see a game with James O’Brien. You know there will be more posting. Oh yes, there will be more.