Teemu Hartikainen and Kelli Geopfert at the OKC Barons Sunday skate (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)

Kelli Geopfert and her son Noah are serious OKC Barons fans. They very rarely miss a game and often travel to Texas for road games. I have greatly enjoyed getting to know Kelli this season – she has a wonderful sense of humor and we both share a sort of parental pride towards some of these young players. Kelli supports the team wholeheartedly, cheering for our boys to advance to the NHL even when it is very difficult to say goodbye.

Meet Kelli Geopfert – OKC Barons Fan!

PT: How long have you been a hockey fan?

Kelli: I’ve been following hockey for about 6 or 7 years.

PT: Who is your favorite NHL team and why?

Kelli: I love the tradition of the Maple Leafs.  I now really like Edmonton for all the obvious reasons! (Our boys and Jonesy.)

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

Kelli: I love the way Ryan Jones plays hockey – it’s all out.  I like Kessel’s quiet skill and confidence; he’s got a lot of character.  Gilbert Brule is one of my favorites.  It looks like some of our boys will be NHLers soon, and in that case, I love Teemu.  I know Colton Orr is with the Marlies now, but I like his brute strength and in-your-face style of play.  I seem to either like the sluggers or the classy guys, nothing usually in between!

PT: If you are from OKC, were you a Blazers fan? And if so, how do you compare the Blazers with the AHL OKC Barons team?

Kelli: Yes, I adored the Blazers – it was fun, rugged and really fan-centered; it introduced my son and me to hockey, so I’ll always be grateful, but there’s no comparison with the Barons.  The finesse, speed and strength of the AHL made us fans for life.  I wish more of the old Blazers’ fans would come out to watch the Barons; I think they would become fans as well.

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?

Kelli: We went to the inaugural game and I think we’ve only missed 2 or 3 games total in the last 2 years.  We also go to several of the away games (Texas).

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

Kelli: See above.  We also watch a lot of the games online.

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

Kelli: WOW!  I cannot imagine a better coaching staff or team.  It seems like we have the “perfect storm” brewing for an extended playoff run – I would say the ultimate extent, but too many people are superstitious, so I’ll just say long playoff run!

PT: Who are your favorite players and why?

Kelli: Oh my goodness!  So many!  Of course, I love Tuley because he is Tuley and exciting to watch; he is also good with kids. Two of my favorites are with other teams right now; I love O’Marra and Brule because of their great work ethics.  Tanner House is just such a good kid and is really starting to come into his own on the PK.  Pitlick is one to keep your eyes on; he’s kind of the total package, good puck skills, good moves, great hitter, so much fun to watch.  Antti can be explosive and has a wonderful attitude.  Helmer’s leadership cannot be understated.  He has great presence on and off the ice.  Teemu has all the “right stuff” like Pitty; he just gets things done in his quiet way and has a tremendous work ethic.  It is very hard not to name the whole team because I truly like them all!  Yann and Lenny have been our stalwart, fearless net minders.   I really like Rodney to talk with; I hope he settles down and finds his niche here. I could rave about all of them!

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

Kelli: I was looking forward to watching Brule and Tulupov.  I was also anxious to see O’Marra up his game, which he did.

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

Kelli: Kirill and Antti.

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

Kelli: Tuley because he actually seems to like his fans!  I think people like being around him because he is articulate and impish at the same time.  Lord will always be one of my favorites, even though he isn’t new and he isn’t playing – other players could learn a lot from him; he has handled himself with poise and grace and good humor.

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

Kelli: I sure wouldn’t want to change anything right now – we’re in a great spot going into the second season and I’m hoping a lot won’t change next season even though I know we will lose a lot of players.  That’s the worst and best thing about the AHL.  Love to see the boys get their chance while it is hard to say goodbye, but I always root for them to go up, like a proud parent.

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

Kelli: Teemu will probably stay with the Oilers from the outset next season.  I think Cornet is getting really close. Perhaps Teubert; he may need a little more “seasoning”, but he has upped his game considerably.  Now isn’t Pitlick’s time, but it is coming and the AHL probably won’t see him again.  I know Yann and Lenny are older, but Edmonton sure needs some of the good stuff they gave us!

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

Kelli: So, so many!  I loved the Christmas party when Tuley came up and started shooting hoops with me. I liked his flip of Layton. Hmm, already 2 are about Tuley!  I loved the Maggie shootout goal.  I liked the wheelchair basketball game the boys did for charity.  It was fun going to Texas this last time.  I loved the Helmer’s Heroes program.  I love the blowout win over Texas and the close one with the Admirals.  Every game has been like a mini event, even when we lost.  It has been a great experience watching the guys develop this past season.

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

Kelli: I just want to thank them for the splendid season they’ve given us so far.

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?

Kelli: I would really like to have better music and quite honestly, I wish we looked more like the Stars, yet with our own spin.  Theirs is so professional.

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

Kelli: The Christmas party was very well done and we got to be with the players in a casual, fun atmosphere.  I really liked the meet and greet at the beginning of the season as well.

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

Kelli: I am tired of being screamed at by Shane.  I’m not crazy about the ice girls either; it’s very intrusive.

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

Kelli: I would listen to fan suggestions and play different music.  I wouldn’t hire Shane back and I would develop better videos and graphics.  I would rather see more player bits – I really don’t care what ice girl goes to what college, I really don’t.

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

Kelli: Well, I’m too inept at it myself to really have an educated comment!  I like the pages created by real fans rather than the “official” ones, but that’s just me.

Tanner House and Kelli (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)