Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Few Comments On The Past Few Days

We've been reading the comments to the last several posts, and we thought there were a few items that you guys have mentioned and discussed that should be addressed in a post. So I got the assignment. And note, for the most part, what you are about to get are my opinions, and my opinions only. We are in agreement on some of the things I write, and there is also much disagreement over some of what I write.

That said...

The decision to fire Jerry Meins did not come from the people in Houston. It specifically did not come from the business staff or from any of the people who were hired or used to work for Tom Garrity in Houston. This decision was made in Minnesota, and it was made by the hockey people, not the business people.

That said, I am as angry about the decision as you are. One person left a comment talking about how wrong this decision was, but how this kind of thing happens in sports all of the time. And that person was right. Still, I think Jerry Meins has done a great job with this team, and to the best of my knowledge there is nothing in regards to his work that caused this action. I am particularly angry about the way the move was made, which was Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher calling Meins, with Fletcher in Minnesota and Meins in Houston, to tell him the news. Meins' position with the team, as well as his time spent with the team, means to me that he deserved to have this action take place face-to-face.

But in the end, Fletcher has the right to have his own people here in Houston assisting with his operation. Fletcher's job is to do what he thinks is right for the Minnesota Wild, not what he thinks will keep the people in Houston happy. The Aeros are, after all, a minor league team owned by the Minnesota Wild, and the purpose of the Aeros is to make ready players to promote to the Wild. If the Aeros win, that's fine, but it's secondary to assisting the Wild -- thus despite the Aeros fighting for a playoff spot, it's more important to the Wild that Krys Kolanos and Anton Khudobin sit in the press box with the Wild because of potential injury problems.

With that in mind, I note that many of you are angry over the Wild's treatment of the Aeros roster, and many of you think that there was not effort made to retain last season's playoff club. I'm upset about some of the moves, as well, particularly Mitch Love and Nolan Schaefer. But hear this: the club did want to retain Corey Locke and Marco Rosa, and they made offers to them. It's just that those two guys received incredible offers from the New York Rangers and Manitoba Moose that the Wild were just not in a position to match. Rosa's contract in particular, from what I hear, was rather hard for the team to match as an AHL-only contract. And as Andrew has written, Kolanos had worn out his welcome with the club.

As for players like Love and Schaefer, I can't offer much beyond the fact that, with regards to the goalies, Barry Brust and Anton Khudobin are signed to contracts for this season, and both have proven that they can play goalie at this level. And as much as I want Love and Tony Hrkac and Matt Beaudoin back this season, my desires, and the desires are the fans are of secondary concern to Fletcher and his assistant, Jim Mill. Their concern should be what is best for the Minnesota Wild organization, and if they don't think those guys fit into what they have in mind for the organization, or with the type of hockey that they want to play, then they are under no obligation to sign them to a contract and bring them back to the team. They have been busy with signing guys to contracts, and we have to work under the assumption that Fletcher thinks these guys are what he has in mind for the new style of play of the Wild.

Now with that said, I'm going to address the comments about the business side of the Aeros.

Many of you were upset that we got a quote from Courtney Eidman regarding Jerry Meins. I'm sorry that you don't like that, but frankly, I don't give a damn. She was the proper person in the Aeros chain of command for this matter. In the past, we would have contacted Patrick Armstrong or Scott Henninger, but both have left the club and their replacement will not be arriving until next week. I'm sure we could have waited to talk with the new Director of Communications or Communications Manager, but then many of you would have probably been angry at us for not talking with the Aeros right away.

Some of you have also said that Eidman, the mysterious Senior V.P. -- which has me thinking of this guy -- and other people who were associated with Tom Garrity are responsible for many of the bad things that are happening with the club. And you might be right about that. I deal with the media guys, game ops people, and Joe O'Donnell. I don't deal with the people that you season ticket holders deal with, and they don't get my money -- I'm comped, sorry. So for all I know, many of you are right in some of the things that you say. But...

The lack of media attention this team gets isn't because of anything "the three blind mice on Lamar" have done. The lack of television media attention is because local sports don't get much attention on local news as they used to -- you can thank ESPN for that. It's generally the last segment of the news, right before Letterman. And local television media is always going to concentrate on the big three of the Astros, Texans, and Rockets, before any other team. Look how much attention the Cougars and Owls get, which is just barely more than the Aeros, and both of their football teams went to bowl games last season. It's just the nature of the media. And do you really want the radio talk show guys trying to talk hockey? Those guys have enough difficulty with making coherent arguments about baseball, basketball, and football. Do you really want to hear what they'll say about hockey?

That said, you are now getting much more media attention on the Aeros than you were three years ago. Andrew's in the Chron. I'm on HoustonPress.com Heather writes about the team at Pro Hockey News Daily. Then there's our group project here with Fred, that we call T3I. And I think that we're giving the Aeros better, more comprehensive, more factual, more entertaining, more objective, and more analytical coverage than any sports team in the city of Houston is getting. So in away, you guys should feel blessed. The Aeros will never return to the days of the 90s when the Aeros were treated as a major league team. First, the Aeros aren't a major league team. Second, back in those days, the Oilers had deserted the team, baseball was coming off the cancellation of a season and a World Series, and the Rockets were on their way into suckitude.

And speaking of the "three blind mice," I should also point out that virtually nobody in this position with a sports team has a background of playing the sport -- some of you have complained that they don't have any hockey background. Pam Gardner with the Astros never played baseball. Most of the business people with the Texans have never played football. Neither have most of the communications people. So I fail to see what their lack of so-called knowledge of hockey has to do with their jobs. For instance, I never played hockey, so I should probably never write about it. And I'm pretty sure that most of the major complaints that ticket holders have result from decisions made in St. Paul, not in Houston -- well, okay, I'm sure the horrible anthem decisions are made in Houston, as are the six choirs a night that all perform "God Bless America."

I've gone on way too long, and many of you are probably mad at me, but remember, this is me, not Andrew, Heather, or Fred. I hated what was done to Jerry Meins. I hated the way it was done -- I lost my job back in March and I'm still unemployed, so I'm more pissed about this than many of you know. But in the end, it's the Wild's right to do what they want. Same with player decisions. The Wild have to be more concerned with getting guys they think can play in their system than they need to be concerned with us here in Houston. I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that this is the way it goes when you are fans of a minor league team.

I apologize for anything that might have angered you guys. But we felt these issues should be discussed. And this is what I think. I see my job as trying to provide an objective view of what is going on with the Aeros. And I believe I have done that. And I believe that I will continue to do that. So I guess that all I can say is fire away.


Anonymous said...

John you are right about several of the things that you said. As someone very close to the organization I took the opportunity to lash out. It was probably the wrong arena to do it in but I am fed up. The three stooges make it impossible to do my work. Jerry's termination didn't come form them but it is insulting that any of them should have a word to say about a guy like Jerry. If it is their current responsibility or not they are not worthy. They treat us like crap and I am just fed up. I will be the next to go. Hopefully it will be by choice before I wear out my welcome. If you would rather me not vent here then I'll stop. I thought it would be right for the fans who care to know that the pawns understand their frustration and agree. This is not a fan friendly organization. It is not an employee friendly organization either.

John Royal said...

Anon: comment all that you want. We will never stop that. I was trying to address some of the things that I have come up, and I was trying to get at why we did some of the things that we did. And you have been helpful -- I hope you did not think I was lashing out at you.

I'm sorry for your situation. I hope that if you leave, it is of your own will. But trust me on this, as someone who is going into his fifth month of unemployment, who is burning through his 401k just trying to keep afloat, who is about to lose his medical insurance, and who is having no luck whatsoever in finding another position, DO NOT QUIT unless you have something else lined up.

And let me wish you good luck, and thank you for your contributions.

Fred Trask said...

Venting is good anonymous.

Great post John. It's easy to criticize personnel moves but most of those who criticize only see that the move wasn't made. They don't think about the fact that an effort could have been made but the player got a better offer or decided he did not want the offer, etc.

Ms. Conduct said...

Very nicely done, John, and for the record, there's not much if anything I'd argue with there.

Anon, best of luck to you finding a happier work environment. Thanks for sharing what you have here.

artandhockey said...

I believe we DO understand that any decision came from Minnesota.

What, I feel, has people so upset is the HOW it was done. So out of the blue and at this specific time -just 3 more years to retirement after 15 dedicated years of loyal service.

Regarding offers to players, as you mentioned, other teams offered MORE and who would not take a bigger salary if he/she could!

The Aeros being, as you so eloquently wrote, just the farm team only used to stock the parent team up north, is probably not the best environment to create loyalty in players WHEN they get a better deal elsewhere.

Regarding the newcomers, they all seem to be older and may only play a bit down here, before going up or being traded elsewhere again.
With fan base shrinking because of dissatisfaction and NOT because Houston has no hockey loving enthusiasts as some Northerners suggest (many did come South for the better climate and jobs)- it may just be that Aeros will fold sooner than later. But that is ONLY my opinion ....

alw02 said...


Thank you for the great post.

Just a couple of thoughts -

First a winner will draw more people in Houston. It is very hard to win with the teams that have been put on the ice by the Wild in Houston. Last year after bending Tom Lynn's ear for years he finally tried putting some offense on the ice to augment the nice (but not overly talented draft picks). The Wild need more revenue from Houston. Winning and fan loyalty have a direct and positive impact on that.

Second - the dismissal of Jerry was inappropriate in the way it was handled and I just hope Fletcher mentioned age or youth in the termination discussion.

In the whole I agree with everything you say except I think you need to give some weight to what the fans think and feel in your discussion as they have an impact on the financial success of the Aeros.

Mark Potter said...

"Meins' position with the team, as well as his time spent with the team, means to me that he deserved to have this action take place face-to-face."

I absolutely, positively agree with you, John!

To terminate a guy who has poured his heart and soul into a position for 15 years deserves to be told face-to-face. To do it by phone smacks of inexperienced, cheapskate, or simply cowardly management. Trust me, all three types exist out there in the business world.

I can feel what Jerry is going through - a little over a year ago I was told that the position I had for 18 years, and was planning on retiring from, was going away in less than four months. But at least they told me face-to-face and gave me enough time to find another job within the company or elsewhere. Jerry got neither.

Second, I would like to emphasize that I have had ZERO problems with the Aeros ticket reps. They usually bend over backwards to help.

My problems with the Aeros have been with the local and Minnesota management. First, their general lack of concern if the team is any good or not, except for the one year when it looked like O'Sullivan, Voloshenko, and Foy might be moving up the next year - then they loaded that one up to make it successful. Second, as someone else previously posted, the attitude of the previous management group was that fans were to buy tickets and then shut up. I doubt they ever solicited significant input as to what was going on. Third, and certainly not least, they often treated people horribly. CJ was a prime example.

The new guys have stepped into it deep and early. It's not the first time I've seen new and relatively young managers step into a situation and start making changes without first unerstanding what they are changing. I've seen it in business, and I've even seen it in church. Some are trying to be helpful, some are blindly full of (something) and vinegar, some are trying to establish that they are the boss by marking in each corner, and some are just arrogant narcissists on a power binge who think they are smarter than anyone else and beyond the rules.

Did they have the right to fire Jerry? Sure. Could have it been done much, much better? Absolutlely. Is the whole thing a crock? Yes. Is it going back to the way it was before? No, never.

I just hope Mill, et. al., release that they are behind the eight ball now with the core fans, a group you can't upset much or for long or else the Toyota Center starts becoming a very,very empty place on the weekends..... much like it is on Monday night games.

The damage is significant but repairable. It's particularly bad when trust is lost before it is even built. But if they think we are going to forget it soon and show up in October all smiley face, they are mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Mark the damage is repairable but they have no interest in doing so. That attitude comes from Minnesota but is embraced by the local narcissists you speak of. All of them schooled by the head narcissist who is just down the block now. The organization is interested in your money only. Quality of product be damned. They are very short sighted and too arrogant to understand the karma of their actions. Outside of a Houston based leader trying to get you to spend more money how often has local management ever reached out to you just to thank you for coming? All it would take would be making themselves available and willing to interact. They don't care and don't want to be bothered with the people who make the Aeros a possibility. Fans are not appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Appreciated? They're barely tolerated.

B2Bomber said...

Well, I think the same could be said of the fans in addition to the players and staff. Fan appreciation night used to be just that. Chuck, et. al, had quite good give aways for the fans and not the junk that we've gotten the past few years. I realize that it's minor league but if the current ownership pisses off the fans the attendance will dwindle.

Hang in there anonymous. Take John's advise and don't give it up until you've got something else in hand. It may seem bad, but trust me, not as bad as being unemployed during this economic downturn.

Anonymous said...

Who are the 3 blind mice on lamar? I know one is Courtney Eidman

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I can't believe Jerry was terminated. What is up with that? Classless. Guy has been around since Day 1. Who else in the org has that kind of longevity? It's not like we needed to go in a "new direction" in terms of coaching, management, or ownership.