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Heat Report

Goaltending, attendance, coverage controversies in first place Heat’s first quarter

The Abbotsford Heat are in first place in their division after a strong start, but there is plenty

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By Mike Cadarette and Karen Aney (Contributor/The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 21, 2012

Optimism that the NHL lockout would mend the Heat’s attendance issues was high before the season had started. Is the perennial problem back for the Heat’s fourth season?

Mike: The Abbotsford Heat have averaged an attendance of 4452 people per game. Those numbers are, of course, skewed because of two Chicago Wolves games and two Oklahoma City games in which three out of four of the games were sell outs. It’s unfortunate that people in the Valley don’t like the sport of ice hockey because the Abbotsford Heat are very good at it.

If the team isn’t Vancouver affiliated or doesn’t have one of Edmonton’s young stars on it, people won’t watch. I’ve come to accept that fact. If a Canucks farm team was located in Airdrie or Cochrane, I’m going to assume Flames fans wouldn’t support them either. In the meantime, the Heat will keep winning and people will keep missing out on what is arguably the best team playing in all of North America right now.

Karen: See, I don’t think it’s that people in the Valley don’t like ice hockey. In fact, I think we’re pretty hockey crazy (or maybe that’s just me). That being said, I think the biggest mistake made in bringing the Heat here was marketing them as a Flames farm team. Because, really, when you take all the trappings away, they’re an awesome team with really amazing players. We’re blessed to have one of the top NHL teams in the league and one of the best AHL teams in the league within driving distance. That’s what should be marketed. Any affiliation with the Flames should be downplayed as much as possible.

After training camp ended, three goalies remained on the Heat: Danny Taylor, Barry Brust and Leland Irving. It’s a rare situation the Heat are in; are the coaching staff juggling their netminders well?

Mike: I’m going to go ahead and put this out there. If the Heat win the Calder Cup this season, I’ll get a tattoo of Barry Brust on my back in Steve-O-esque fashion. My body is a temple, but any goalie that has more hits than goals allowed deserves to have his face immortalized on my flesh. Not only that, but he also sports Ryu and Ken from Street Fighter doing the Shoryuken on his mask.

Besides Brust currently being in God mode, the Heat have a good thing happening in net.  Brust leads the league in goals against average, Danny Taylor is third in the league in the same category, and Leland Irving (considered the most NHL-ready goalie on the team) continues to eat a lot of popcorn from the stands, but has been good when he’s been summoned from the Loge section of the AESC.

Karen: While I’m not going to hop on the tattoo bandwagon anytime soon, I kind of agree. The boy’s a beast. More than that, he’s fun to watch. He told us in a media scrum that one of his nicknames is Ninja – I think it’s totally accurate. I don’t understand how the guy moves the way he does. Oh my, that kind of sounded dirty.

Another plus to Brust is that the boy gives a great interview. He’s authentic, intelligent and well spoken. I think it relates to his play – he has great hockey sense, and seems to know what’s happening before it happens. I hope we see more of him, because quite frankly watching Irving either bores me or makes me cringe – he’s so robotic! Hopefully Brust keeps up his fluid ways of awesomeness, so we can keep our love fest going. Long story short – when your team’s weakest (statistically) goalie is NHL-ready, you’re in a pretty good place.

A little bit of a backstory: On Monday, November 12, Dave Sheldon (of CKNW’s Sportstalk Weekend) was having his weekly interview with Ryan Pinder about the Abbotsford Heat. Pinder got slightly upset that his team, while being the best in the AHL, got no recognition from Vancouver media. Oklahoma City—a team barely over .500—got more attention when they were in town. Jason Botchford took offence to Pinder’s remarks and embarrassed himself on Twitter shortly after the interview. Thoughts?

Mike: I was a Heat fan before I took on this job for The Cascade. From a fan’s perspective, I can’t help but to agree with Ryan Pinder, who is the play-by-play voice of the Abbotsford Heat. The Vancouver media do not do a good job covering the Heat. Getting Team 1040 to talk about the Heat is like trying to get a complete interview between Brian Burke and James Duthie – it’s not going to happen.

So when Ryan Pinder told Dave Sheldon that the Vancouver media would rather go for the “low hanging fruit” than to do some research and cover the Heat, he wasn’t wrong. It seems Jason Botchford of The Province took offence to Ryan’s comments and declared publicly, on Twitter, that he’d “rather cover ballet” and he was “done with abby [sic].” I look forward to calling his bluff the next time the Wolves are in town.

Karen: I’ll go ahead and be the bad guy here. I understand where Pinder was coming from, because it’s frustrating to herd so many media into the building only to see them report purely on the other team. That being said, media attention is media attention. The Heat beat the “Kids” (Barons) 4-0. No matter how many sonnets you’re writing to Nugent-Hopkins’ fledgling moustache, people are going to take note that something awesome is going down in the AESC – any press is good press, right?

Let’s face it, part of the experience of going to a hockey game is running into a myriad of different types of fans. You two have been watching hockey for quite some time, so give some thoughts on your favourite type of fan.

Mike: There are so many different types of fans that attend hockey games. There are the drunken girls who somehow develop a brain disorder as soon as they’re shown on the JumboTron and begin shouting, “WOOO!” in ear-piercing unison. Then there are the over-65 fans that spend their Old Age Security pension money on season tickets and love their hometown team. But whatever you do, don’t keep getting up and strafing past them every 15 minutes for a new beer or else they’ll give you the demon stare. There are also the “Hometown Hater” fans that deliberately cheer against the hometown team even if they don’t like hockey. They do it simply to get a reaction out of you.

But my favourite fan of all time is the “Shoot the Puck!” fan. By no means are they rare at hockey games. In fact, every fan base has hundreds of them. These are the people who bust a lung shouting, “shoot the puck!” at the oddest times. Before faceoffs, at centre ice, when the goalie just made a glove save – it doesn’t matter. They’ll still insist that their team shoot the puck. These fans are especially noticeable when their team is on the power play. Every shooting lane on the ice could be blocked and they’ll still want to see a shot. If only their team would listen to them, they’d have the best power play in the league.

Karen: So you like idiots? Those guys make me want to jab rusty forks into my ears. I think I prefer the kids. They can be idiots, but it’s okay because they’re children and cute. It’s a toss-up which kind I like best – maybe the babies with the headphones who follow the puck back and forth on necks that barely hold their head up? Maybe those kids who get to play after the first period? They make me “want to procreate,” as I’ve been quoted on Twitter as saying.

My all-time favourite, though, has got to be the kids who are passionate about the sport and the team. I saw a kid—he couldn’t have been more than 10—wearing a “red man” suit (like the Green Men who cheer for the Canucks). The kid rocked it, cheering his Heat on with passion that was unrivaled by anyone around him. Also, this was at a Wolves game; it isn’t easy to do that with a sea of blue around you!

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