Last night the Oklahoma City Barons ended their five-year run with their loss in the 7th game of the Western Conference Semi Finals against the Utica Comets. We have known this end was coming for a long time now, however it certainly didn’t make it any easier. I thought I was prepared for the rush of sadness. I thought it would be easier, but that final goal horn just brought tears to my eyes like many others in OKC.
Relocating to Oklahoma late in the 2010-11 season I never dreamed that I would find an AHL team here, and I also never dreamed that I would take such an active role in writing about and reporting on this team. The past four years have been a wonderful surprise to me after watching NHL hockey for many years on the East and West Coast in Washington, DC and Los Angeles. The minor league charmed me with its lower profile but it also delighted me with the team’s proximity to their fans. It is a very rare thing to skate with NHL players, but in the AHL in OKC you could do that after every Sunday afternoon game. You could talk to these guys, take photos, get autographs and perhaps the next week you would see that same player in the NHL on your TV.
I was very lucky these past four years. Extraordinarily lucky! I was able to interview some of the OKC Barons players, along with Bill Scott the team’s GM, and photograph most of the goaltender’s masks every season. I learned a great deal about the minor leagues, what makes it tick, how players adapt and live a rather vagabond lifestyle. How teams operate, how players deal with the pressure, the joys and the sorrows of it all.
Along the way I gained many new friends over these years, exceptional friends, not only fans but players as well. Some have even become part of my extended family, my dear friends who will always remain in my life.
What does it mean to lose a team? It’s tough. Incredibly sad, but I have no regrets at all since I’ve gained a lifetime of wonderful memories in these past four years. I look forward to seeing where every one of these players, coaching staff and our top-notch play-by-play broadcaster Jim Byers end up in the future. While the Barons have closed their doors, the players and coaching staff will continue their careers and I will always be cheering for them!
Goodbye and farewell to my OKC Barons!