Laura is funny, clever and has the sharpest wit this side of the Mississippi! Perhaps even the other side as well! Her only failing as far as I can tell is that she is a Houston Aeros fan. Last year that went in her favor, but this year not so much, and she has been a very sport about it this season. So, here’s to you, Laura! Salut! :::clink::: We are delighted that you are also cheering for the OKC Barons!
Despite the fact that I have illustrated Laura in her Aeros’ gear, she has collected a good number of OKC Barons jerseys – game worn and otherwise! See also Matt Kane’s interview and their photo of David LeNeveu’s Special Olympic jersey!
Meet Laura Kane McElfresh – OKC Barons Fan!
PT: I assume you have Texas connections – the Aeros jerseys, t-shirts, caps, etc. are a small clue. 🙂
Laura: I have roots in Houston & go there whenever I can.
PT: How long have you been a hockey fan?
Laura: Ever since I was a little kid. I was born on Long Island & my family lived there until I was 3; not clear on this, but I think my folks took me to a few NY Ranger games when I was a baby, and probably some Isles games too. Then my dad played rec league all my life – yes, in Houston! – until I was in my late 20s (about 10 years ago). That was great because seeing the game up closer, at a little slower pace, really helped me learn the game. Plus it was my dad out there! We kids would go visit Dad when he was in the “sin bin”, fill up water bottles for him & his teammates, etc. Good times.
When I was in middle & high school, believe it or not, sometimes there would actually be NHL on TV in Houston… Dad would watch whenever he could, and so did I. You know that if anything, Texas is even more football-crazy than Oklahoma; so being a recalcitrant little nerd Alterna-Teen to the core, I perversely enjoyed declaring myself a Hockey Fan, and the hockey love stayed alive. Then the IHL brought the Aeros to town while I was in college, and I’ve been an Aerohead ever since.
But I still like the Barons, no doubt!
PT: Who is your favorite NHL team and why?
Laura: Minnesota Wild because they’re affiliated with my Aeros. I also like the Stars (Texas’ only NHL team, so I’ve liked them for a longer time) and the Islanders due to my “Lawn Guyland” origins. I have a lot of other kind of minor favorites, including the Bruins, Blackhawks, & Devils, but those are the three biggies.
PT: Who is your favorite NHL player(s) and why?
Laura: Not many particular names I can think of, but overall I tend to be a goalie fan… kind of a Black Knight “none shall pass” thing. Needless to say, I loved it when (Sabres goalie) Ryan Miller went full-metal Ralphie Parker on (Predators) Jordin Tootoo. Martin Brodeur is still a favorite of mine and the reason why I root for the Devils.
Also, I miss (former Aero, then Wild) Derek Boogaard.
PT: Do you have any hockey souvenirs? What are they?
Laura: Sure! Lots of gameday giveaways – bobbleheads used to creep me out when they first got popular, but now I’m okay with them. Lots of pucks, some toy Zambonis, sweaters, t-shirts, hats, the works.
PT: What is your favorite hockey souvenir(s)? (Jersey, puck, etc.)
Laura: That’s easy – my McSweater (personalized green authentic Aeros jersey from the IHL days). My brother gave those to my dad & me one Christmas, must’ve been at least 10 years ago. Then recently he got hold of a matching one for himself; I paid to have it customized for his birthday, and the McElfresh Line is complete!
Other prize hockey possessions include my women’s hockey sweaters [Angela Ruggiero Tulsa Oilers, Julie Chu Team USA (signed), Cammi Granato Team USA, and Boston Blades (CWHL) Sami Faber], my signed 1998 Olympic women’s gold medal t-shirt, my limited edition Don Cherry bobblehead, and my Kirill Tulupov signed Cyrillic sweater and game puck. Also a Gordie Howe “Mr. Hockey” poster from one of the times he made an appearance at an IHL Aeros game.
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?
Laura: Of course! Because it’s hockey. But the difference in skill level between the CHL and the AHL is unmistakable. It’s also really cool to see former Aeros & former Barons playing up in the NHL – a benefit of having a team in a top-minor league like the AHL (or like the IHL was).
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?
PT: How many games do you attend and/or watch on average? All? Most? Explain.
Laura: Very mostly most – I’m a season ticket person, but can’t always make *every* game. But I try to.
PT: What is your opinion of the team and coaching this season, so far?
Laura: (THUMBS UP)
Sorry, I’ve been reading @DonCherryParody on Twitter a lot lately.
PT: Who are your favorite players and why?
Laura: Well… given that the Barons just finished off my Aeros in the playoffs, this is a bit of a tough one. 😛 Gotta love Danis, he’s SO solid… and poor LeNeveu, anywhere else he’d be the ace goalie by a lot. And then of course there’s Tulupov! Fearless, tough, funny as hell. Arcobello’s a good player, funny guy on Twitter, and a paisan (I’ve got a soft spot for the Italian types).
PT: Which player were you most excited to see play this season?
Laura: I’m kind of a team fan, don’t track the individual players so much – as Jerry Seinfeld put it one time, I’m rooting for clothes. However, I will say that nothing, but nothing, compares to Tulupov Judo Flip in my book.
PT: Who is your favorite new player this season (2011-2012)?
Laura: Probably Arcobello. Good skill player, gets the job done – as seen in his play against my Aeros. Seriously though, he’s fun to watch!
PT: Who is your fan favorite this season and why?
Laura: TU-LU-POV! That interview – what’s not to like? And seeing him skate around with little Viv, that was great. You can tell he really appreciates the fans.
PT: What would you change about the team itself, if anything?
Laura: I liked it better last season when the Aeros owned the Barons – this year it was kind of the reverse, you know? 😉 I think also the Barons could’ve stood up more to the teams who play the “physical” game. Sometimes it seemed like the guys were just getting shoved around. Oilers looked that way too, but with not nearly as happy results from game to game.
PT: Who deserves a chance at breaking into the Oilers roster next season?
Laura: Yann Danis. I know he was up this year, but would like to see him get more of a shot next season. (Especially when the Barons play Houston. I’m evil like that.) No, but seriously, I think Danis should get to show Edmonton what he can do. The Oilers could also use some defensive reinforcements, I think. Yikes, I am *not* looking forward to the Barons getting picked clean next season.
PT: Describe your best team/player/coach experience this season:
Laura: The special inscription Kirill Tulupov did when he signed my “ТУЛУПОВ” jersey. (I wasn’t there, Linda got him to sign it for me at a meet-&-greet.) The little smiley-face makes it even more awesome.
PT: Do you have any additional comments regarding the team and players?
Laura: I have enjoyed the hell out of these two years, am looking forward to next year, and in the meantime would love to see the Barons bring the Cup to OKC. And I think they can do it.
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?
Laura: Pass. One thing they’ve done that I really like is little perks for season ticketholders – the dedicated concession lines and the early entrance are nice, but the best is when they set aside some of the giveaways (like they did with the Santa hats) for STH to pick up on the concourse if we don’t get to the game early. I really appreciated that & would love it if they did it more.
PT: What has been your best off-ice experience this season and why?
Laura: The Season Ticketholder party was a blast. I also love the Sunday postgame skates. I don’t talk to players much – it’s weird for me because I’m shy by nature and because what do I have to talk to these guys about, it’s always weird when I know who someone is but they don’t know who I am – but I like that the players are available for people who do dig that kind of thing. It’s one of the really cool things about the minors vs the big leagues. The weekly Barons radio show at BW3 is great too; I can’t make it very often because of my work schedule, but it’s lots of fun whenever I can. It’s also helped encourage that BW3 location to show more hockey, which in turn encourages hockey fans to go there!
PT: What has been your worst off-ice experience this season and why?
Laura: Those times when the Barons are scheduled up against the Thunder. Intellectually, I understand that the Thunder own this city – it’s the golden rule; they have the gold, they make the rules – but it is still a terrible slap in the face when Barons fans get blocked out of “our” own garage, etc. Then also the traffic stinks, all the bars near the arena are crowded, and it just adds up to a big disincentive for people to come to a hockey game.
PT: What would you like to change about the off-ice experience for next season?
Laura: Heh. 😉
Actually, digressing from NBA-hater sentiments that might get me burned at the stake in OKC, I think it might be nice if the Barons had more promotions. Gameday giveaways are always good; how about some bobbleheads? Also, I see other AHL teams running ticket giveaways on social media – I know this team’s management is opposed to giving away free tickets, but this wouldn’t be anywhere near the scale of what the Blazers used to do. You know, just a pair or a 4-pack per game on Facebook and another one on Twitter. It’s a nice way for teams to thank their social media followers (and maybe build the ranks), and also to get some tickets into the hands of fans who might just not have the cash on hand at the time.
PT: As a fan, what is your opinion of the social media aspect (Twitter, Facebook, Website)? Pass or Fail and Why?
Laura: “Needs Improvement”. But they’ve definitely taken a step in the right direction, bringing Eric Rodgers in as Social Media Coordinator. The difference is visible already!
PT: Do you have any additional comments on this subject?
Laura: Just a stick tap for the fan-driven social media. There are some fun Barons Facebook groups out there, and lots of great people on Twitter. I’ve made some good friends in the intertubes first & then met them in person in the stands, at BW3, etc. Hockey fans are a special breed (as your fan interview series has shown!) and it’s great to connect with friends & fellow fans online.