Saying goodbye in OKC. Again.

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It’s the moment I have been dreading. I’ve also, in a weird way, been looking forward to getting it over with. To the end of this season. To the end of this chapter of hockey in OKC.

The heartache and bitterness of this past year after it was formally announced that Oklahoma City would once again be losing it’s hockey team, has taken a tremendous amount of fortitude from all hockey fans here. There is small consolation that it isn’t “just us” losing our team. However, it just seems more brutal for those that reside in the 405. I don’t want to go into WHY the Barons are leaving the city. I don’t want to rehash old speculations, arguments, and rumors on who is ultimately to blame. There has been plenty of that.

What there hasn’t been plenty of, is the talking about all the wonderful, magical and special moments we have had with this Barons team and fellow fans in these past five years. That should be our focus. I’m trying as hard as I can to keep that focus in these last final days, as hard as it is to not vent anymore.

I’ve been thinking about the move a lot. I’ve been trying to chose my words wisely. I’ve been trying to be NICE about the loss of professional hockey in OKC, yet again. I have been trying to figure out the best way to end my fandom with a blog post. I know there are people out there who will share words and memories in much better form than I ever could.
What do “I” want to say? What do I want to convey? What do I want people outside of Oklahoma, (Hell, outside of hockey fandom in general), to know about our OKC Barons these last five years. Can I say it, type it, phrase it correctly and without bitterness and anger?
All I can do is try.
“Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I asked a few friends if they wanted to say a few words. We all have several words we want to use, but this is about the hockey community we built. After a few drafts, the hardest part was keeping the stories simple and short. Trust me, it was not an easy feat.
I think nothing exemplifies how close knit this community of Barons players and Barons hockey fans were to each other, than the Moore tornado of May 20th,2013. Between that monster of a storm that killed 24 people (7 of them children) and the Barons playoff game 11 days later being evacuated for another killer tornado heading in to the city, everyone was on a sort of panicked alert. Several Barons fans had lost their homes and were reliving it at the one place they hoped to forget for a couple hours of what they had lost. It was such an enlightened sense of raw emotion. Calm was kept while hockey fans, Barons and Griffins players, and staff all took shelter in the parking garage under the arena. A truly unforgettable experience for all.
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Barons locker room after the May 31st tornado warned storm came through the metro. Cox Center damage was extensive and the game was cancelled due to the flooding.

Denton Johnson:

“I have been a season ticket holder since the very beginning, I was so excited to have this level of hockey in OKC because it was better than anything we were used to as fans. 
As I went to the games and became more involved I began to meet people and develop friendships with them and really feel like I have got many new friends the past five years, people with the same love and passion towards hockey as myself. I will really miss seeing these people on a regular basis now that the Barons are being taken away from us.
On example of this friendship happened on May 20th, 2013. A massive tornado hit Moore, OK and my house, taking most of everything that I owned. My family was ok, my dogs were ok but we were devastated as a family. We went from having a nice house to being homeless in less than 15 minutes.
This is when I truly felt the love of everyone that I had got to know over the last three years just by being a Barons fan. The Booster club collected money for us, Prodigal collected money for us and all we had to do was ask and we had all the help and prayers that we needed. All of this from a group of people that I had not known three years earlier.
We had also become friends with Chris and Olivia Vande Velde and they were wonderful. Olivia and Anniina (Teemu’s girlfriend) took my daughter Breanna one Saturday and spent the day with her getting they’re nails done and basically taking Breanna’s mind off the bad stuff that had just happened. That meant so much to me that they would take their time to do that for us. Chris collected clothes for me and even got a practice jersey signed by the team for me. We have remained friends with them ever since, even though he plays for the Flyers now.
I have a lot of stories concerning a lot of really good people that I really think the world of. All of it due to the fact that we bought season tickets to the greatest game with the greatest fans in the world. I have always said, “Hockey people are just good people”
Denton's soulmate, Jolynn Johnson and their daughter, Breanna.
Denton’s soulmate, Jolynn Johnson and their daughter, Breanna.
As die hard Chicago Blackhawks fan, the pain of recovering from the tornado was made more difficult by finding a Detroit Red Wings jersey amongst the house rubble.
As die hard Chicago Blackhawks fan, the pain of recovering from the tornado was made more difficult by finding a Detroit Red Wings jersey amongst the house rubble.
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Mary Long:

“It took a leap of faith to get me to attend a hockey game on my own. But because of that, I met some of the funniest, most passionate people that I’m fortunate enough to call some of my best friends. The last few years of my life would be drastically different without these experiences.

Some of my favorite memories include Magnus Paajarvi scoring a goal with 6 seconds left in regulation to tie the game in Game 2 of the second round of the playoffs in 2012, Jordan Eberle’s New Years Eve hat trick, scoring 2 goals in 9 seconds and 3 goals in 2:43, Brandon Davidson’s first game back after cancer treatment, and many many callups watching these guys scoring NHL goals.

Over the years, I’ve drank with the coaches (or tried to buy them all a round in Charlotte – they declined), gotten three defensemen to admit they get mad when a forward tips in their shot from the point, been photobombed by Matt Ford, had Craig MacTavish hold a door open for me, not to mention all the other cool things I’ve been able to do. There aren’t many of us, and for that we get access to the team that few other fan bases can claim. We’ve been lucky, Barons fans. No one can take those memories away from us.”

There are many, many stories, great memories and inside jokes. 

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And those we will never forget:

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Kristians Pelss, who drowned in the Daugava River shortly after his return to his hometown Riga, Latvia at the 2013 seasons end.
Jimmie Johnston was a very vocal hockey fan and everyone knew him around the rink. He passed away on Nov. 13th, 2014. He was able to get one last OKC Barons game in before the cancer finally took him away.

“I miss this man! The way he can touch a person in such a few short years is amazing as I felt like I’ve known him a lifetime. It’s very odd the last year of his life is also the last year of Barons hockey. I’ve met some amazing people through this man and hockey and I hope that just because both will be gone, the friendships will continue to last.” – Krystal Haltom

A hockey community is an amazing thing to behold. The way everyone tends to find themselves intersecting in each others lives and memories. While the players will move on and possibly forget about Oklahoma City and the fans, I doubt many who sat in the stands will ever forget. There might not have been sell out crowds but there were at least a strong, albeit small, group of thousands that loved their Barons. We have to say “Goodbye” to our hockey in Oklahoma City. We will move on in our lives. Some may never see or speak to each other again. With no more games to meet up at and catch up, that’s the way life tends to work. Maybe it’s all well and good that I cannot type out ALL the stories here. That is for another day, over a few adult beverages, with those of us who now have a part of something forever stuck in our hearts to commiserate during these upcoming long, lonely, hockey-less years.

————————————Please feel free to leave any memories below.————————————
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3 Comments Add yours

  1. artfulpuck says:

    LOVE this article, Linda!! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and memories!

    Like

  2. Katt says:

    Met you Linda in the beer line at one of my first few games. So appropriate. Love your passion even though you cheer for the wrong team 😉 These memories I’m thankful to have and keep as well as the friendships I’ve made. Road trip 2015-16!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pat curtiss says:

    Want to say one thing to my Barons. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet such wonderful young men that will leave an impression on my life that I will never forget. Good luck may you reach for your dreams and succeed. Going to miss you all.

    Like

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