[dropcap]This[/dropcap] month brings hockey back to the ice in Oklahoma with the state’s two teams, the Tulsa Oilers and the Oklahoma City Blazers, each expecting a great season.
John Peterson, director of broadcasting and media relations for the Oilers, says that last season brought a number of accomplishments that they are ready to meet and exceed this year.
“We took a big step last year on and off the ice,” he says. “The team finished one point shy of a playoff spot, so we’re hungry to take that next step and bring playoff hockey back to Tulsa and make a run at a championship.”
Jason Christie returns for his second season as head coach in Tulsa. He brings with him the most coaching victories in East Coast Hockey League history, Peterson says.
“He is recruiting a talented group of players this year that includes returning ECHL all-rookie team member Dan DeSalvo and defensive leader Dennis Brown,” Peterson says.
The team renewed its affiliation with the National Hockey League’s Winnipeg Jets and the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose. “They will be a huge asset in putting together a competitive team consisting of players who have the ability to potentially reach the top level of pro hockey someday,” Peterson says.
There will also be several theme nights and specialty jersey nights, including Military Appreciation Night, Pink Weekend, Alzheimer’s Awareness Night and the Teddy Bear Toss, benefiting children in Oklahoma.
Oklahoma isn’t always thought of as a hockey state, but both teams have captured the state’s interest in the sport. The Oilers have been a part of Tulsa since 1928; the first Oklahoma City professional team, the Warriors, began in 1933. The first incarnation of the Blazers began play in 1965 as part of the old Central Hockey League. The current Blazers team is part of the Western States Hockey League.
“Although Oklahoma may be considered a non-traditional hockey market, the Oilers have been fortunate enough to have a fan base that has allowed sustained success,” Peterson says.
The support of fans has been important for both of the teams. “Our fans are everything to us,” Peterson says. “From our season ticket holders to our corporate partners and organizations, the support we’ve received drives us to be better as an organization every day.”
Hockey brings a completely different experience to its fans. “There is truly nothing that compares to a hockey game in person, especially at the professional level,” Peterson says. “The sights and sounds of the action are different than any other sport.”
Both teams encourage new fans to come to a game to see what hockey is all about and to create ways their families can enjoy a sport together.