Linda on the Zamboni (Photo: Courtesy of Noah Geopgert. All Rights Reserved.)

Linda is hockey personified I think. Fun, loud, uncensored, continuous non-stop action and in your face at times. Everything we all love about hockey! She says things most people only dream of saying, and for that, I commend you, Linda. You will often find her at the Blazer’s rink taking photographs of the OU hockey team, and the rest of the time, she is at the Cox arena, cheering on the Barons well, if the Chicago Wolves are not in town, that is! And even then, there is nothing better than watching a hockey game with Linda!

Follow Linda’s blog at A world unto – Oklahoma hockey news!

Meet Linda Donnelly – OKC Barons Fan!

Background:

PT:  How long have you been a hockey fan?

Linda:  The defining moment was probably when I was 15. That’s when I went to my first live game, USA hockey vs. Russia at the old Chicago Stadium. From the beginning of the Anthem, I knew I was going to be hooked. It was a great time, even got doused with beer. My dad always loved hockey and talked about it, every once in a while there would be highlights on TV we would watch, but it took that live experience to really instill it.

PT:  Who is your favorite NHL team and why?

Linda:  Chicago Blackhawks. Obviously, being from the Chicago area. Why? Anthem. Crowd. Beautiful jerseys. Horrible owner for years (who finally died). Winning the Stanley Cup three years after said owner died!

I have a soft spot for the San Jose Sharks as well. For the most, I “like” all the teams, it’s all hockey, but there are a couple I can’t stand and would hope lose every single game 😉

At the end of the day, it’s about the game and about the Stanley Cup. No matter who hoists it in the air at the end of the season, I still shed a tear.

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

Linda:  Let me think, I normally don’t have a favorite so to speak, I just go for the team aspect. I like Antti Niemi quite a bit, and Dustin Byfuglien. Yes, they are ex-Hawks players, but watching them during that Cup run has made me a fan of theirs for the rest of their careers. They just played with such heart and did so great despite no one thought very highly of them.

I always like Guy Lafleur, just watching him skate with his hair everywhere was beautiful. It was like watching someone fly.

PT:  Do you have any hockey souvenirs? What are they?

Linda:  Do jerseys count? I have I think 35 jerseys now. All from various leagues and teams. And yes, I’ve been told that makes me NOT a real Barons fan. (????) Anyway, unfortunately, a lot of my favorite stuff has been lost. But I have rebuilt my puck collection and still have some pictures. I was never a big autograph person but I do have an autographed puck from Mike Modano, given to me from a friend from work. I also have a large photo of the classic Bobby Orr goal, also signed that I love.

PT:  What is your favorite hockey souvenir(s)? (Jersey, puck, etc.)

Linda:  Besides the Orr pic, probably my newest addition, the Tulupov game-worn New Jersey Devils jersey. He has personalized it and that’s a first, so yea, that’s pretty special. All my Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup souvenirs are pretty darn special as well 😉

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?

Linda:  I was a Blazers fan, because it’s hockey and it was all I was going to get when I moved here. I maybe went to one game a year though until their last few years. Granted, most of those were games with free tickets, because hey, not everyone can afford extra luxuries no matter how cheap the tickets are. We all know how those free tickets worked out for the Blazers.

Comparing the Blazers to the Barons has to be done in a certain way. Hockey in OKC is hockey in OKC whether it’s CHL, AHL or NHL. You have a hardcore fan base, a moderate one, and then the rest of the city who doesn’t give a crap and could care less about learning, much less attending a game.

But personally, I was very upset when the Blazers folded. It was ridiculous, gong show hockey but it was still a fun time in the arena, etc.

Towards the end of the Blazers time, I was getting fed up with all the fighting and crap. I wanted to watch hockey. Now, I like a good fight as much as the next person and I love big hits. But I’m not a WWE fan and I don’t want staged fighting in my hockey. It’s nice, for me anyway, to have “professional” hockey here finally.

When it was announced that OKC would get an AHL team, I was absolutely cheering and jumping up and down. Why? Because I could see the teams I grew up with in Illinois, the Chicago Wolves and Peoria Rivermen. I was happy to have a more professional style of hockey here finally, even though I knew it was probably not going to last.

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?

Linda:  Yes, I was at the very first game. I was so excited to check this new team out and be back in the Cox for hockey. I always thought it was a nice hockey arena, even though horribly outdated. Luckily that horrible opening night game and lack of fan experience didn’t keep me away, but I am pretty hardcore about my hockey. That first year, while a Barons fan, I honestly was more focused on all the visiting teams. I was like a kid in the candy store. I don’t know how to explain it, but the Barons just didn’t fire me up & excite me so I had more fun just being a hockey fan in general. I was so frustrated that no one else was excited and realized what OKC had now in terms of hockey. Even this year, the hockey community is buzzing about OKC. No one here cares. Not even inside the Cox it feels like sometimes.

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

Linda:  I think I hit most of the games. I’m not a season ticket holder but I manage to get to the majority. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my friends who are season ticket holders, I can say I probably wouldn’t be at that many. Not because they give me tickets, it’s that they “encourage” me to attend more than I normally would. Nothing against the team itself of course. I just get tired of being aggravated. I get enough of that at home with two toddlers. I can stay home and save money if I can’t go out and have a decent time at the sport I love.

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

Linda:  I love our coaching staff. I think they do a really good job with what they have to deal with. Come on, 2 years of the Barons, 2 years of playoffs … I can live with that any day. The team – I’m for the most part pretty happy with them. They do things together away from the rink and that creates cohesiveness. When that reflects onto the ice with their play, it’s really awesome to watch!

PT:  Who are your favorite players and why?

Linda:  Hmmmm, this is tough because I really don’t have a favorite player, besides Tulupov of course. I like Helmer and am very glad he is here in OKC. Lately I’ve really enjoyed watching what Antti Tyrvainen will do on the ice, he’s so tenacious. And Arcobello.  And Triston Grant. Oh heck, maybe it would be easy to say who I DON’T like? Omark. Linus Frickin Omark. Seriously, stay the F away from my team and city; we don’t need your cancer.

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

Linda:  Hmmmm, probably Yann Danis. I was apprehensive at the beginning of the year on how our goaltending would be. Last year wasn’t horrible but we lost both Gerber and Deslauriers, so I was hoping we didn’t back slide. When I found out about Lowery I was pretty happy. I had watched him in St. Louis last year when his Colorado College team was in the NCAA Frozen Four finals.

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

Linda:  Mark Arcobello. Not sure why but he is interesting to watch on the ice. And his twitter is very entertaining 😉

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

Linda:  I guess I’ll go with Tulupov because he has opened himself up to the fans. He has also, when he gets ice time, shown improvement each time he plays. I like watching the way the atmosphere changes around the arena and on the ice when he is on the ice and makes a big hit.

I have got to talk more to the guys this year and have to admit I have been sucked in by Andrew Lord’s charm.

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

Linda:  Can I say more balls? I know that sounds mean I suppose, but too many games we just get run over. They know they can run us over and do. And why has Cornet stopped attacking the net??

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

Linda:  I think Tanner House deserves a shot or Yann Danis. I don’t want to lose Danis but he certainly deserves it.

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

Linda:  Well I probably shouldn’t but it was fun. Let’s just say the opportunity to talk outside of the rink with certain members of the organization has made this a great season for me. One person I admire quite a bit turned out to be very enjoyable to sit down and have an adult beverage with. And it probably isn’t who you think it is so HA!!!

The other moment that was spectacular was the harassment of me by a certain player during warm-ups one day.  Good times, good times.

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

Linda:  I think we have a good team and a good group of guys. I just wish they looked like they were enjoying themselves more out on the ice instead of going through the motions. We did this last year too. I do like this team and think we have what it takes to bring the Calder to OKC.

I never would have expected to win the West Division much less own it all season and have the top two goaltenders in the AHL like we did. Keep it going boys and let’s DO this!

Linda with her Wolves Puckhead cheering on the Chicago Wolves (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)

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?

Linda:  Ugh. Does that explain it well enough? I seriously hate going to hockey games in OKC. If it wasn’t for meeting a group of people and becoming close friends, I wouldn’t be wasting my money. I LOVE the Barons and I love hockey. But I’d rather watch at home than get aggravated at all the fail.

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

Linda:  Well, it wasn’t technically “off-ice”, but having the chance to ride on the zamboni during intermission I have to say wins out over everything else.

The Radio show at BWW’s I think is great and I hope the partnership continues. I’ve been trying to convince Ed to get NHL Center Ice FOREVER and the Barons show helped me get that 😉 It’s a fun time and it’s nice to have the chance to win tickets, etc. This is a must for fan friendly relations. I think Prodigal needs to realize, random tickets on RT contests, trivia contests, etc. ISN’T “giving away tickets” to the extent the Blazers management did. Getting rid of giveaways at games and special package deals, etc. isn’t horrible either. You DO have to compete with the NBA, sorry, we all hate it, but it’s a fact. Get off your ass and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. Or hire people who will.

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

Linda:  I can’t say there is a “worst” really, it’s a cumulative effect on my part. I think the best representation of a worst experience in terms of hockey in OKC is the whole parking situation. On Thunder days. This isn’t the fault of the Barons or Prodigal, of course they could threaten to check them into the boards or something and demand respect. All’s fair in love and war, it should be first come first serve for the parking downtown when both teams are playing. Many hockey fans have gone from being Thunder fans, to treating them casually, to now a hatred. I don’t blame them. We are already treated like the “step-child” of Oklahoma City. Yes, the city could step in I’m sure to make this a more fair situation, but hell our Mayor talks out his mouth about his “support” so what do you expect. This isn’t just OKC that does this either so I don’t want to hear any crap about I’m slamming OKC. It is part of the life to be a hockey fan, but that doesn’t mean we have to roll over and take it. So SCREW YOU parking companies. Kicking people out of their own team’s arena parking is horseshit.

Oh, and the Icegirls. Yes, some are nice but the majority thinks we are there for THEM. It’s annoying having to watch a video of them before the players come out and then have interviews. Seriously?? After the rudeness displayed by them at the Christmas party, you have forever made me not a fan.

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

Linda:  I’ll say it has improved since last year, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The Cox Center has always felt like walking in a tomb and lack of crowds doesn’t help that. The new Crown Royal lounge is great and the grill is a nice addition, but I haven’t eaten there. The concessions need a LOT of work. Taking my daughter to a game sucks most of the time because there is no longer a lemonade vendor. Sorry, my kid doesn’t like pop. And I’m not paying $3.50 for a damn warm bottle of water.

The workers, ushers, ticket takers, box office, the grunts basically, are all great. You get excitement, high fives, and nice demeanors to welcome you. It is very nice and kudos to them. People walking around in suits, yea not so much. Nothing makes a fan feel more welcome than scowls and stares (sarcasm). I hope they keep the kids stations, the drawing & face-painting. That was nice to see this year.

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

Linda:  Basically, I don’t rely on the team social media for information. I am a HUGE proponent of SM & not to toot my own horn but am pretty darn active in it. So I may hold teams and businesses to a higher standard. If you aren’t willing to learn and grow, GTFO. Restaurants, stores, etc. get my business and kudos when they are a great force on social media. Likewise, if you suck, are rude, indifferent or never respond, I dismiss you and pass the word. THAT is how word of mouth works.

Twitter – acceptable I guess because I have seen worse. Of course they were third rate hockey leagues or teams that no one cares about or follows, why expect more here in OKC where “no one cares about hockey”? The guys do a lot of stuff for schools and hospital visits, etc. Who doesn’t have a phone that takes pics? Download a twitter app and tweet that stuff! Tweet pics from game days, shots of the game, shots of the crowd … stuff for people to RT!! I think this helps perpetuate the thought that no one who works for the Barons really cares about promotion.

Since I my original answers were written, they made changes in their social media dept. Everything I originally had a problem with, has now been corrected. Pics of games, meet & greets, charity endeavors are now being posted. There are now twitter contests, like guess the first goal. Solid tweets about the next game are out there. Finally!!! Thank you!!

Facebook – oh Facebook. What an interesting world. I pretty much avoid the Barons fb page because it irritates me so. And it’s not how it’s run or content, it’s the fans. The constant posters, the self-righteous attitudes and ignorance.  I have to see enough of that crap in general being online; I don’t want to deal with it in my sports or hockey. To be fair, I hang out in NO team’s fb or forums because of this. I give them a pass. Fans can at least upload pics and talk to each other if they want. Monitoring of “hate” speech is not tolerated and questions seem to always get answered.

Website – I pretty much hate it. It’s almost impossible sometimes to find what you are looking for. If you want the schedule and roster, it’s easy to find.  Any other links, forget it. Personally, I HATE surfing the net, so if I’m blasted with annoying banners, music, videos and can’t find a story that was tweeted or facebooked on the site and have to re-find the link, I’m done. My time is pretty precious and limited. I guess I’m not a “good” fan because I don’t read everything or watch all the videos.

PT:  Do you have any additional comments on this subject?

Linda:  I was so happy to see the improvements around the Cox after last year, but in game production still blows. While I and others come to watch hockey and don’t care about the games, etc., I’d rather have it all than nothing. It’s amazing how quiet that place gets. And it’s not the empty seats. That building doesn’t need much yelling fans for noise, but it does need energy. There is no energy; the crowd is not part of the game. This is Oklahoma, where people are very passionate about their sports. Newcomers to this game need incentive to show off that excitement. I am still pissy that this past weekend’s game against the Wolves was dead quiet. Where was Derrick standing in people’s way during play to do the “Let’s go Barons?” There was NOTHING to get the crowd pumped, which in turn pumps the players up. Just sad.

And damn it, I want frickin’ souvenir cups!!!!

Linda's Zamboni Ride (Photo: Linda Donnelly. All Rights Reserved.)

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