EVANSVILLE, IN – I’m often guilty of using analogies in my life. I believe that things often make more sense if I look at them in context as it relates to something else. In a piece earlier this year regarding the IceMen lease negotiations, I compared the Mayor of Evansville and IceMen owner Ron Geary to divorced parents. Two people that were looking out for their best interest while attempting to salvage the interest of a fan base that supports a sub .500 hockey team.
The more I think about it, there’s another analogy I’d like to make. In many aspects the IceMen fans and the ownership of the team also parallel a romantic relationship. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s stop for a second and review the definition of fanatic from wordinfo.info:
fanatic – Someone who is marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause.
In many aspects, being a fan of any team mirrors that of a relationship. The “unreasoning” support of a cause is a significant similarity. There’s an emotional connection that often overrides parts of rational thought and behavior. To be clear, I’m not saying any of it is wrong. I’m a married man and a fan of many teams. I’m also speaking in general terms, of course, every relationship or fan isn’t cut from the same cloth.
I laid out the case for connecting the two because the similarities became glaringly apparent on Saturday night. Let’s start with a quick history lesson.
The Evansville IceMen, owned by Ron Geary, started out in humble beginnings. Many of those stories are available as part of an interview I did with fans just last week. When Mr. Geary decided it was time for the team to move up to a more competitive league, the original IceMen were replaced by buying the franchise rights to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. To be fair, the Muskegon franchise folded prior to Evansville picking the bones clean. Yet, there was no remorse, no sorrow for Muskegon that they lost their hockey team. Evansville was more than happy to step on the broken hearts of Lumberjack fans with barely a thought of “Oh, you don’t need this franchise license in the IHL, right?”
It’s the nature of business. One city’s loss is another’s gain. In that instance, it was the Evansville fans who were doing the gaining. The IHL merged with the CHL and the rest is history.
Late last week, a newspaper in Owensboro, KY (which is about 30 minutes from Evansville) reported that the IceMen were in negotiations to possibly move the team there. Of course this sent shockwaves through the IceMen fanbase. The possibility of leaving is one thing. When life has uncertainty, there’s always a chance for hope. Hearing that negotiations happened to potentially move the team takes some of that hope away.
Which leads us to Saturday night.
Star Wars night for the IceMen is always a very large draw. This year, the announced attendance was 8,229 which is a significant crowd. Diehard hockey fans, casual fans and random Star Wars fans all filled up the Ford Center in support of the team. The crowd was loud and rowdy. It was everything a hockey game should be, even though there’s an air of concern around the team. IceMen Fans were showing their unreasoning support for their team.
Word started to spread that the team owner was walking around the arena with the Owensboro Mayor. It felt like a gut punch to hear it and speculation turned to reality when a photo surfaced.
To say that the relationship has been rocky between ownership and the fans for the last couple of months would be an understatement. If we’re a marriage that’s attempting to work it out, the fans are playing the role of the jilted wife who just want things back the way they use to be. Saturday night felt like IceMen ownership was parading a potential new girlfriend in front of their current wife.
I won’t presume to know why the two were together, however, this is one of the few times that motive becomes irrelevant. If we assume the worst, it’s an incredibly spiteful and malicious move. If we assume nothing nefarious, it still reeks of a lack of understanding as to how it would be perceived. At its very best of intentions it’s a spit in the eye of every single one of the Evansville residents that supports the hockey team. Let me ask you, if you were going through a rough patch in a relationship and spotted your significant other out with someone you knew wanted to date them, how would you feel?
To clarify, I still do not put much or any stock into the notion that the IceMen will be playing in Owensboro next year. Maybe I’m wrong. Only time will tell. The frustrating piece is that it rubbed all the IceMen fans’ nose right in it. It was a disrespectful time and place to be spotted together for everyone that pays their earned money to watch the Evansville team in Evansville.
IceMen fans didn’t mind to swoop in and snag the leftover pieces of a failed relationship in Muskegon. We received a shiny new toy out of it.
Somewhere along the line we forgot that one day we just might be joining the First Wives Club ourselves.
Note: I reached out to the IceMen for comment as to why Ron Geary would have the Mayor of Owensboro at the hockey game. I was informed no one from the IceMen was commenting on Owensboro. The IceMen staff and management are always welcome to speak with us at The Sin Bin.