I am not a basketball fan. I don’t have any connection to the sport. To me, the fact LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers is little more than trivia and something to spout uneducated opinions on. It makes little to no difference in my life.
Were I a hockey fan that lived in Cleveland, it would mean a heck of a lot to me. The Lake Erie Monsters are an AHL team that plays in the house that LeBron built – or more accurately, the house that LeBron wildly improved. The team is owned by Dan Gilbert, who happens to own the NBA’s Cavaliers.
That means that the Quicken Loans Arena – thankfully and after this.known as The Q – is the beneficiary of the return of LeBron. Some of those benefits can be seen in similar marketing efforts. Some of those can be seen inside the stadium itself. To say that LeBron a big deal in Cleveland is an understatement.
As a hockey fan, it’s not something I see very often. Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby, Washington has Alex Ovechkin, Chicago has Toews and Kane, there are a few others around the league. None of them have the hype that LeBron carries. Even after his first year back with the team, I doubt that hype will die down. The Monsters, a minor league team playing in a major league city, are nearly invisible by comparison.
This is not a bad thing. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If people come to the Cavs games, they will see more about the Monsters, and hopefully buy tickets. How much crossover between basketball and hockey has been debated to death. But anything that brings fans to the arena is a good thing.
Let’s take a walk around The Q.
(click any photo to make bigger)
The Q is, without a doubt, a major league arena. It was built in 1994 and looks good. It has wide concourses, plenty of food options, and all the modern conveniences you expect from a modern building.
Some Monsters signage.
But don’t be fooled. Everything else is LeBron and Cavs. Here are a few of the banners around downtown.
Speaking of downtown, the cities I’ve been in lately (Johnstown and Wheeling) have been falling apart. Cleveland, for all the grief it gets, has a solid downtown. The area around the arena is full of sports bars and restaurants.
Some of this is due to the Cleveland Indians playing next door to The Q at Progressive Field. Rather than just a single arena or sport to fill the area, there is something year round downtown.
Here’s one way you know you aren’t in a small town that’s falling apart and trying to rebuild: they don’t have gigantic chandeliers over their streets. This is in Playhouse Square, the Cleveland theater district.
Another place near the arena is the block at 4th Ave. Plenty of restaurants and bars here, and even a bowling alley.
The Return of LeBron brought improvements to the arena. For instance, this gigantic HD scoreboard. The Monsters are still adapting to it. Much of the pregame video was in standard def and looked pixellated. Most of the graphics throughout the game looked good in HD.
The team store is neat, if lacking in Monsters gear. Another one is on the concourse with more hockey stuff.
How basketball-centric is The Q? I don’t believe women are required to have a basketball when going to the bathroom, but…
The team takes the ice through a big inflatable monster head.
It’s probably hard to tell, but the glass in the arena is brand new. The only hockey glass I’ve seen that was cleaner was at the Denver Coliseum before the Denver Cutthroats started their season, or even practicing there.
Here is something I’ve never seen before. Security guards in the penalty box. I guess they do this all the time. I wonder if there is a story behind why.
The Monsters scored the first two goals of the game on their first two shots. Good thing, because after this, the Stars called their time out, settled down, and dominated the play for the rest of the game. The Monsters were outshot 36-24, took six minor penalties to the Stars’ two, and gave up the tying goal in the last minute of play. It was an ugly game for Lake Erie.
Look at the flex on that stick.
The game went to overtime, where Michael Schumacher (24) won with a nice backhand goal.
The game sheet can be found here.
After the game, the players came to the concourse for autographs. The line was phenomenal.
Here is the ice crew, the Mullets.
Unlike some of the games I’ve seen lately (Keystone, Dayton), this was the most professional presentation for a minor league game I can remember seeing. It was like being at an NHL game, which shouldn’t be surprising. It’s run by a major league team ownership.
That ownership, and the major presence of the Cavaliers, made this an interesting experience. Many of the places I’ve been this season have been dominated by hockey. Here, the team did their best to make everything feel like they were just as big as the NBA team, while still looking like all the hockey was simply going to be wheeled away into storage until the next game.
None of that is a complaint. This is an AHL team living in the shadow of an NBA star and his team. Knowing their place in the world seems to suit them fine.
Thanks to @MetalTodd for providing me with a ticket and hanging out . I think the best way of putting it is that he sponsored me being there. It was great to meet him and hang out. He is also taller than Jay, my partner at the Avs Hockey Podcast.
If you’ve read this far, you are hopefully enjoying these reports from the minor league world. Thanks for that. These are fun to make, but they do cost a bit of money to do (gas, ticket, the occasional hotel).
@ScottPantall suggested two things. One was a book of the places I’ve been, perhaps a photobook or coffee table book. The other was something like Patreon, where you, the readers, could help sponsor my journeys. Scott said he found my blog because of these trips a few years ago, and I know others have as well. So far, it’s been a labor of love, but it’s also something I wouldn’t mind paying for itself.
So what say you? What sounds right or wrong about those ideas? With Patreon, there are possibilities to scale what I made and do something different and special for sponsors. A book would be interesting as well, or even something smaller and lighter, like something magazine sized. I have more photos that don’t fit into blog posts, and there are potential ways to do more. The comments are open, and you can tweet me as well.