"Steve Hanson" – OKC Barons Fan

I met “Steve” earlier this season and – honestly, take a look at that face – you just have to admire a guy like that. How can you not? He has a great, quirky sense of humor and speaks his mind. What a refreshing thing! “Steve” is a serious – and I mean SERIOUS – hockey fan. No question about it. This season has been made all the more fun, crazy, zany and entertaining due to “Steve” – and I sincerely thank you! This interview could well be the “Tulupov” of the OKC Barons Fan interviews.

[PT Note: “Tulupov” as a noun is defined as the ultimate, peak, pinnacle, zenith; as a verb, “to Tulupov” means to crush, defeat, beat, triumph over, vanquish. The “Tulupov Salute” – well, let’s just skip over that one for now.]

Meet “Steve Hanson” – OKC Barons fan!

Hockey Background:

PT: If you live outside Oklahoma, where are you located?

Steve: I live in the “state of hockey”.  The governor of the state is Gordie Howe.  He usually runs uncontested because he kicks the other guys asses who oppose him. 

PT: How long have you been a hockey fan?

Steve:  Honestly, my entire life.  Some of my earliest memories are watching hockey … like the 1980 Miracle on Ice (yeah … I date myself by saying that, but it is what it is).  Interestingly enough, I have never really played hockey as part of a formal sports team.  I played pond hockey back in Michigan whenever the ponds froze over.  We would go out there and shovel the snow off the ice and then play until the sun went down.  No lights, so we couldn’t stay later than that.  We would play as far into the Spring as we could – basically until someone fell through the ice and ruined the “playing surface”.  When we were older, we just got roller blades and played in parking lots (under the lights after work) until the police kicked us out of the parking lot.

PT: Who is your favorite NHL team and why?

Steve:  Too easy.  Detroit – because they are the best!  I didn’t choose my team … I have been a loyal Red Wings fan my entire life.  I loved the Russian 5 when I was growing up (Shoutout to LARIONOV).  And yes, I was a fan during the “dead wings” years.  So I am NOT a bandwagoneer!!!

PT:  Who is your favorite NHL player(s) and why?

Steve:  That’s a tough call.  I like defensive players – I tend to favor them.  Right now, I really like Justin Abdelkader (Detroit #8).  I also really like Jeff Petry (Oilers #58).  They both went to MSU and I was able to watch them when they played college hockey and now to see them both in the NHL is pretty cool.  I like Drew and Ryan (even if he is a Sabre) Miller too.  Of course, I could just say all the greats, but that’s a given (who doesn’t like Pavel Datsyuk?)  I guess if I had to choose dinner with ONE NHL player, it would be a toss-up between Jeff Petry and Justin Abdelkader – and probably Abby gets the edge.

The OKC Barons Team (Players and Coaching staff):

PT: The OKC Barons are now two years old – did you have an opportunity to follow the team since the beginning?

Steve:  Yes!  After moving here, I read an article about the possibility of having an AHL team in OKC.  I had moved here just before the playoffs would have happened in 2010 and was pretty disappointed there wasn’t anything to really watch.  So, I was excited to see the news develop and get a team locally.  I came to their very first game ever played and nearly every home game since. 

PT: How many games do you attend and/or watch on average? All? Most?  Explain.

Steve:  All.  I may have missed a couple along the way, but it is one of the many ways I like to spend time with my son.  He loves the games, the atmosphere and the experiences.  He is developing my love of hockey and even his own favorites.  To be honest, there really isn’t much about Oklahoma I like – hockey sort of saved this tour for me.  If it were not for Barons hockey I’d hate living here.  As it is, having one of the best AHL teams in town only makes it bearable to be “stuck” in Oklahoma.

PT: What is your opinion of the team and coaching this season, so far? 

Steve:  I like the coaches.  I have even met Rocky on non-hockey related terms.  They are definitely good people.  They clearly understand how to coach a winning team.

The team – there are many of the players that I like for various reasons.  Some are just fun to watch, some are dynamic and make exciting hockey, some are just nice people that I have had the fortune to meet and “get to know”.  Others I couldn’t care one way or the other.  As individuals there is a LOT of talent on the team.  As a group … I get frustrated.  I feel like they don’t “care” from time to time.  They seem to play lazy a lot (not hustling to pretty nearby pucks, too many passes not enough shots, etc.) The “fire” doesn’t seem to come out.  Also, there are a few players that have shitty attitudes about the AHL.  As if they are too good for the AHL and should be in the NHL.  Well, to those guys I’d like to say, “Obviously, since you are HERE in the AHL, you are NOT too good for it.  Get the hell over yourself. Go out to play hockey and be open to coaching so you can finally get to the NHL for good … otherwise get off the ice so someone that wants to be here and appreciates this opportunity can get some ice time.”

PT:  Who are your favorite players and why?

Steve:  In no particular order:  Grant, Tulupov, Yeo and House. (Note:  LORD is in my top 4 also, but hasn’t played all year … and yes, I realize that means 5 names for my top 4.  Deal.  You get what you paid for when you interview me!!)

Grant is a stud.  He is VERY funny and enjoyable to talk to.  Also, he likes to play physical hockey. Not bruiser hockey, but physical.  And he’s not afraid to drop the gloves and throw punches (win or lose).

Tulupov – he’s Russian.  That is all.  LOL … I like the Russian style of playing.  I noticed him during training camp.  He skated differently and carried himself in a way that stuck out to me.  I had no idea who he was or where he was from.  When I learned he was from Russia, that made sense.  He plays (in many ways) like the guys I grew up watching in Detroit – namely Igor Larionov.  I was sort of impressed/surprised to find out that Larionov is his agent!!  ALSO, a little birdy told me that he has a secret for how to drink Vodka!

YEO – he has a great shot from the blue line.  When I met him, only once, he was very sincere and genuine.  Seemed happy to chat with me for a moment (rather than annoyed – YOU LISTENING UNGRATEFUL PLAYERS!!! DON’T TREAT ME LIKE A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN BECAUSE I AM A FAN OF THE SPORT THAT PAYS YOUR RENT!!)  I had flashbacks to college and actually thought to myself, “I’d love to split a pitcher of Labatt’s Blue with this guy.”  To me … that’s it.

House – he is fun to watch.  He has a lot of talent and can really make plays happen.

LORD – come on!?!  What’s NOT to like about Andrew Lord!  He must have one of the best personalities on the team.  HE LOVES HOCKEY!  His passion for the game and personality just make him a joy to talk to. He hasn’t played this year, but I liked watching him last year too after he got here.

Danis – okay … so I can’t count.  So much for that degree in math. 😉  I figure I better grab a goalie. Danis is awesome.  Of course, he is a nice guy too, but his skill between the pipes is really impressive.  He is among the top goalies in the entire league – if not the top!  I like watching him because I don’t expect him to be here long.  I would be surprised if he doesn’t end up in the NHL next year or the next at the latest.

PT:  What player were you most excited to see play this season?

Steve:  Jeff Petry.  I know everyone expected me to say Tulupov – although I enjoy watching him, I was most excited when Jeff came back for two games.  My son loves, LOVES Jeff Petry – maybe I would take Petry to dinner instead of Abdelkader after all.  (I don’t know … I guess I’d have to arrange for two dinners.)

 PT: Who is your favorite new player this season (2011-2012)?

Steve:  Tulupov

PT: Who is your fan favorite this season and why?

Steve:  Tulupov.  He has an AWESOME ARMY!!! They even made a banner for him.  Come on … if one guy can inspire a Tuly-Wave and a banner, how can you not love him.  Okay, but seriously, he has had some of the most impressive fights I have seen in years.  One in particular, I just remember him pushing the other guy off balance and into the boards.  That poor other guy, he could fall down and end the beating, but he couldn’t stand up to fight back.  It … was … AWESOME!  And who could forget that amazing tumbling beat down on the weekday game when he was fined 10 minutes for being Russian!!!  HOLY CRAP!  He left the ice and the team STILL was energized to a fantastic game and a victory in the end. Kirill has some heart and he just loves to play hockey.  

 PT: What would you change about the team itself, if anything?

Steve:  The team … nothing really.  They have their ups and downs.  I understand that they are the developmental team for an NHL club and so we deal with call-ups and other stuff all the time.

PT: Who deserves a chance at breaking into the Oilers roster next season?

Steve:  House.  I think he is the only one that immediately comes to mind that hasn’t been called up at least once this year (if he has, then ooops) that deserves a chance right now.  He is solid and pretty consistent.  I think he could benefit from having a little higher level competition and team mates pushing him along.

There are some younger guys and others that I would LOVE to see in the NHL, but need a little more refinement and ice time next year.  Hopefully they will get more attention next year if they return to the Barons/Oilers organization.

PT: Describe your best team/player/coach experience this season:

Steve:  There have been a few.  But for me, going bowling with the team earlier in the season and taking my son along.  It was GREAT to watch him interact with the players and see how they treat him. 

PT: Do you have any additional comments regarding the team and players?

Steve:  It would be nice if there were more ways to interact with the players.  Not too much, just something.  For example, rather than do an online auction for ALL the jerseys at the end of the season, why not do one at the beginning of the season.  That way we can wear the jersey of a guy that is ON THE ICE.  In many cases, these guys might leave the organization.

As for jerseys, I would also like to see more special event jerseys that are then auctioned off.  They would easily pay for themselves and generate more money to a variety of causes. 

Off-ice Fan Experiences – this includes inside the arena, outside events and social media:

PT: How is the off-ice experience for you as a fan this season? Pass or Fail and Why?

Steve:  FAIL on the pre-game.  There needs to be quality performers to do the National Anthem before the games.  Only a couple times have we had a truly good performance.  It is not about selling seats, it is about our Nation’s symbol of patriotism.  I have personal friends that have laid down their lives to defend what Old Glory represents.  I have led troops and then watched their funerals.  I watched people wave good bye to their families and never return home to hold their newborn baby. I have seen children have to learn what the ultimate sacrifice is about when their parent is killed in action.  Don’t tell me it is worth 20 tickets to a freaking game to do a piss poor rendition of the Star Spangled Banner!  This needs to be done right.  Not ticket sales. Not BS corporate politics.  Honor the flag, OUR FLAG, as it should be done. End of discussion.

PT: What has been your best off-ice experience this season and why?

Steve:  Meeting other fans that love hockey.  It is nice to enjoy the game with actual hockey fans.

PT: What would you like to change about the off-ice experience for next season?

Steve:  It would be nice if the entertainment actually was targeted to a HOCKEY audience.  We are not basketball fans.  We are not Baseball fans (still waiting for them to pull some stupid 7th inning stretch BS).  Don’t expect us to respond to crap that works in the National FOOTBALL League.

If I could change ONE thing…I would like the production staff to do one of two things (preference for A):

A.  Listen to your dedicated and loyal fans.  We like hockey.  We want the team to be successful just as much (if not more) than you.  I PROMISE if you use our ideas everyone will enjoy themselves.  So just take our suggestions after you have actually asked for them.

B. (NOT recommended, but makes a point).  If you don’t care for my input, just don’t ask for it.  Don’t pretend you want it just to “act” like you care.  Just let me know you don’t care about my feedback.  That way, at least I won’t be pissed that you are ignoring me.  I’ll just hate you outright for being a pompous asshole.

PT: As a fan, what is your opinion of the social media aspect (Twitter, Facebook, Website)? Pass or Fail and Why?

Steve:  FAIL.  It is poorly done.  There is limited, if any, actual interaction with the fans.  People use those TO INTERACT!!! It drives potential fans away when they get ignored on SOCIAL media.

FAIL.  It is untimely.  Very little is communicated via Facebook or Twitter that isn’t already out on other sources.  In some cases, DAYS pass before the official social media sources release information that was made available by their parent organization already.

FAIL.  Mission accomplishment.  The purpose is to COMMUNICATE and SHARE information. They push out very little actual information.  Also, they do not utilize it to drive up excitement and involvement.  You cannot honestly expect that releasing information a day before an event will result in attendance. Communicate often and early. Then, communicate again.

FAIL.  Twitter.  You don’t “own” hashtags.  Please, just once, tweet something before Eric Rodgers does.  He is watching the same games … why do I get more timely updates from other fans.  Then, I get confused because the official twitter will announce a goal 2-3 minutes afterward.  In hockey, that could be ANOTHER goal.

OKC Barons bench and fans (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)