Blood on the Ice and Fans in the Stands

The Aeros come home to Toyota Center tonight for the first of a two-game weekend stand against West Division rivals the Iowa Stars. The team has been on the road for the past six games, and the guys managed to go 4-2-0-0 on the trip and are now 5-2-0-1 for the month of February.

The Aeros defeated the Peoria Rivermen by a score of 7-1 Tuesday night with Adrian Foster starring with four points (one goal and three assists). Peter Olvecky scored two goals, Joel Ward contributed a goal and an assist, and team captain Erik Reitz got two assists. The bad news for the Aeros was the injury of goalie Nolan Schaefer, who hurt a groin two minutes into the game. This was the first time this season that the Aeros reached the seven-goal mark, and the first three of the goals came within a three-minute span.

The Aeros’ luck ended Wednesday night as they were defeated 6-1 by the Chicago Wolves. Barry Brust and Anton Khudobin, who was brought back up from Beaumont due to Schaefer’s injury, split time in the goal, and both surrendered three goals.

The Aeros now stand at 27-20-2-3 and 59 points, with 28 games remaining in the regular season. At this time last year, the Aeros were 20-24-3-5 with 48 points. The Aeros are currently in fifth place in the AHL’s West Division and sit in the sixth spot in the Western Conference playoff standings.

The puck is set to drop at 7:35 p.m. tonight – from recent history, that probably means about 7:47 p.m., and the puck should drop a little after 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. These two games will be the last chance to see the Aeros for the month, as they will finish out February on the road.

SOME MISCELLANEOUS HOCKEY NOTES:

I came up on some interesting hockey stats this week, primarily one saying that the NHL has surpassed the NBA in average attendance and has risen to the third spot in fan popularity among professional sports. Note, that’s bodies in the arena, and not eyes watching on television.

I think we’ve established that I’m a hockey fan and it’s heartening to see those attendance figures for the NHL. I think that, in person, hockey provides the most exciting fan experience. It’s constant action at breakneck speed.

In cities where the NHL and NBA share the same arena (i.e., New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Los Angeles, Denver, Dallas, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, etc.), because of rink size, the NHL arena sits less people. And seeing how the NHL is almost non-existent on the national television scene (try and find Versus on your cable lineup, and NBC has dumped overtime playoff games to go to horse-racing pregame coverage). So the hockey fan in the States must be more passionate to follow his franchise.

(Speaking of television, the rumor-mill is once again heating up that NBC will back out of its contract with the NHL for next season and ESPN will take over the NHL. And this can only be for the good because, as I’m sure sports fans have discovered, ESPN’s SportsCenter now primarily only covers sports that are aired on ESPN. Thus lots of coverage for non-sporting events like poker and the X-Games and the trumpeting of minor league sports like NASCAR and Arena Football. But I rant).

And I’m not sure of how many of you saw this highlight earlier in the week, but it’s should serve as a reminder of just how brutal a game hockey can be, and in this instance, it was only a glancing blow, or skate. This involves a game last Sunday in Buffalo between the Sabres and the Florida Panthers. The Panthers’ Olli Jokinen left his feet to check a Buffalo player. As he did, his feet flew in the air and his skate came into contact with the neck of his teammate Richard Zednik.

Well, just watch the video:

The good news is that Zednik is in good shape and has been moved out of intensive care, though he is still in the hospital in Buffalo.

As for another reason to watch hockey, well, there’s the fights, like this one last week between the college teams of RIT and Canisius.

Gee, it all kind of makes me long for a little Paul Newman, the rest of the Charlestown Chiefs, and a little of that old time hockey.

-- John Royal


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