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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

And In The End

This is my final post for The Third Intermission. There's lots more that I want to say, but this is Andrew's blog, Andrew's idea, and Heather and myself decided that he deserved the last post.

Damn, there's going to be a last post. That's painful to write, painful to think about.

Before I write a bunch of so-called deep thoughts, I just want to thank a few people.

Andrew, Heather, it's been a blast sharing this blog with you, covering this team. Andrew, thanks for being so welcoming six long years ago when I showed up at the preseason media luncheon. Your encyclopedic knowledge of the team, its history, its records, the players, never failed to amaze me. I only wish you were as good at picking lottery numbers as you were with predicting opposing team goals.

Heather, thanks for the spirit you brought to press row. I think my arm is still bruised from all of the punches I took when the goalies were doing something good, or something bad, or just skating on to the ice. Your love of hockey is infectious. The stick finger drawings were inspired, and I wish we would have some way to resurrect them this season.

To Fred Trask, damn I've missed you, Mr. Fred. The treatment you received from the Aeros/Wild was crappy and undeserved, and I wish that I could have fixed it. The blog suffered for the lack of your photos, and though I went down and tried to take photos, there was just no way to do you justice, so good was your work.

I need to thank the Houston Press. They didn't really wanting me writing much about the team for the past year or so. They said nobody cared, and that nobody read the posts. I debated the nobody caring part, but I saw the numbers, and the readers were far too few, until these past weeks when the news about the departure came out. Then suddenly everybody was reading. But that said, it was the Press that gave me the chance to cover the team, and stuck with me for six years. So thank you.

I want to thank the Aeros PR staff that I dealt with for six years, first Patrick and Scott, then Robert and Palmer. Rich was there whenever I needed him. And Josh and Jeremy were ever present when I needed information. You guys often had a thankless job, so I hope that in someway this makes up for it, though I know it won't. Hopefully I wasn't too much of a jerk.

Thanks to Jason Shaver and Joe O'Donnell. You guys are quality broadcasters, and I enjoyed our conversations. Joe, I heard your final comments after the game five Grand Rapids loss. I know those weren't easy words for you say, but you handled it like a true professional. I'll miss you.

There were three different coaching staffs on my time of the beat. And they were all great to deal with. I had heard that Kevin Constantine could be difficult to deal with when he was in the NHL. That might have been true, but he was great here in Houston, and didn't treat me like the idiot that I truly am when it comes to hockey. I don't know what can be said about Mike Yeo but that he knew his job involved selling hockey in Houston as much as coaching hockey. I used to love it when he was angry about something, because then the Canadian came out and he was talking aboot things going wrong on the ice. I'm going to miss listening to John Torchetti and his Boston accent. And to all of the assistants, thanks for everything.

Thanks to Tom Lynn and Jim Mill for returning calls and texts.

I owe much to Dave Maxwell, who handled operations for the team and dealt with travel and attending to the players. I think Dave was punished for some reason in the 2011 Calder Cup playoffs because he kind of became my unofficial handler, getting me players, running interference, etc. He had a thankless, unseen job keeping the team running, and I think he did a fantastic job.

I want to thank Barry Brust, Erik Reitz, Brandon Rogers, Mitch Love, Matt Kassian, Jon DiSalvatore, Jed Ortmeyer, Drew Bagnall, Danny Irmen and all of the other players I interviewed over the years. I know it can't be easy dealing with the media when you've just lost a game, or you're hurt, or you've just lost a game, but you guys were there every night. You've probably erased me from your mind already -- not that I blame you -- but thanks for coming out and talking.

I want to thank the team medical staff for letting me interject myself into their corner down by the locker room during games. And thanks for letting me sit at the dinner table with you guys. I'm not going to name everybody, but you guys were great people, and you are a fantastic medical staff. I saw you working hard after games and was always amazed by just what you had to deal with every night.

I want to thank everybody for reading us here at T3I. This site would've been useless without readers.Thanks for indulging my rants. Thanks for letting me play video DJ. Thanks for letting me obsess over The Beatles on a hockey website. And most of all, thanks for your comments, especially you Forecheck, who always seemed to be there with some kind of sarcastic comment. I appreciated you, too, B2 Bomber, and OldFan, and IceVet, and you, too Arts and Hockey. And I apologize for not naming all of you. But if you left a comment, thanks.

There are so many people that I've not named. Gary, Jim, Randy, Jody, Morris, OJ, Jeff. I hope that's nobody pissed at me for not naming them. It wasn't intentional. The only people I've ever set out to deliberately piss off were the people in the AHL offices.

This has probably rambled a bit too long, but now I've got something really serious I want to get off of my chest.

This didn't have to happen. Nothing anybody can say will convince me the only result was the Aeros becoming the Iowa Wild for a couple of years before they move on to Sioux Falls. I know all about Les Alexander's demands and his so-called unreasonableness, but there's nothing that will convince me that, if the Wild really, really, really, really wanted to keep the Aeros here, the Aeros wouldn't still be here. Sure the Wild liked having a team here, and they paid a lot of lip service to their desire to stay here, but I just always kind of got the feeling that if they couldn't play here, then no big deal. And all you of people who are convinced that Chuck Watson was some saint, remember, he's the one who started this, treating Alexander and the Rockets much like Ted Turner used to treat the Atlanta Braves back when their game times were determined by what the programming needs of TBS were back when Watson was the landlord at the Summit. Hell, Watson's probably the number one reason Houston doesn't have the NHL right now, having twice prevented in the 1990s attempts by Alexander to either purchase and relocate the Edmonton Oilers, or  get an expansion franchise. It's never going to happen thanks to the failure of the NHL's southern strategy -- way to go Phoenix and Atlanta.

And here's what really bugs me, something no one is talking about. There are a lot of people who are now out of work, or who are facing reduced hours. It all seems to be about making a profit. The Wild could make a bigger profit relocating the Aeros to Des Moines. Les Alexander can make more profit by pimping the building out for more concerts. But there are a lot of Aeros employees who are now out of work because of this, and nobody seems to care a damn. And what about the ushers and game day staff at Toyota Center? These are part time jobs to lots of people, sure, but it's very important supplemental income to lots of these people. Now instead of 80-100 nights of guaranteed work, they're down to about 40-60. But hey, the rich dude owners are making a profit, and that's all that really counts, right?

I don't know the names of all of the Toyota Center game day staff I dealt with over the years. But they always had a smile on their faces. They cheered for the team and badly wanted the Aeros to win. I would take the elevator up and down from the rink level to the main concourse several times a game, and I was always asked the score by the person stuck in the elevator that night. They'd want to know how the game was going, how certain players looked on the ice. They cared just as much as any fan and their reward is not only the loss of a team to cheer for, but the loss of income.

Nobody is blameless in this deal. I hope the Rockets never win another game for as long as Les Alexander owns the team, and if the Aeros fail in Des Moines, I definitely won't be upset.

Andrew, Heather, Fred, all of you, thanks for letting me write for you. Thanks for reading. It's been a blast, and I wish it didn't have to end.

The Houston Aeros are dead, but they'll never be forgotten.


Anonymous said...

John, in your remarks about Chuck Watson, one would gather that perhaps you were not here when that happened. To summarize, Les Alexander did not just all of a sudden become a selfish unreasonalble owner. Look at his reaction to both his arena football team and the WNBA.He did not like his returns and folded the football team and conned someone to by the WNBA team.

He was then seen as not a friend to the sport of hockey by NHL Management, his reputation preceeded thim then as it follows him now.

John Royal said...

I'm a native. Chuck Watson treated the Rockets, when he controlled the Summit lease, like Les Alexander treated the Aeros at Toyota Center. And we'll never know for sure what the NHL thought of Les because Chuck through hissy fit after hissy fit whenever Les tried to bring the NHL here.

Les Alexander is not a good person and is at fault for what happened here. But I've never understood the sainthood granted to Chuck Watson.

The Proprietor said...

Have never posted on this blog, but have turned to it often for news the past several years, especially around playoff time. Wanted to say I appreciated you folks taking the time and effort to cover a minor-league team so well. It was a beacon for puck fans here in Houston.

I am not in any way siding with Alexander here, and my heart is hurting to see my team leave (got a little teary-eyed at the end of G1 vs. Griffins, which was my last). But just a thought:

Is it at all possible, even just a little bit, that Les sees what a good thing the Spurs have with owning the Rampage in SA and is waiting for the chance to purchase and move his own AHL club back here, thus getting all the revenues for himself?

Anonymous said...

John, Les was offered the lease of the Compact Center and he refused because at the time he was pushing a combination basketball/football stadium with Bud Adams. It was my understanding from the Compact Mgmt Group, that the Rockets lease for the whole season was less than 250K, and they got first pick of the dates. The only way the Rockets were miffed, is they felt the Major league team had a right to all the revenue stream.

Chuck Watson promoted a sport for the love the of sport and the welfare of the city and the fans. Les promotes sport for his bottom line with no consideration for the city, this is only business to him.

B2Bomber said...

We can surmise what has happened about (to) pro hockey in Houston but the bottom line is we are now without a team. We'll all miss the Aeros and all that goes with them. Thanks for the mention, John and best wishes to all.

Oldfan said...

I'm sure there's a lot we'll never know as far as what seems like an ongoing feud, but the fact remains we have no hockey and we're a sad bunch of fans.

I've been reading this blog since it began and always posted as one of the anonymous until not long ago when it was suggested we get some names.

Thanks, John, for your work and your time to contribute, as well as trying to step (sort of) into Mr. Fred's shoes when he was treated so shabbily and not give his press pass. It's been a pleasure reading your articles and I almost always agreed with you! :)

Anonymous said...

As for the supposed feud, lets be realistic. It was Chuck Watson Vs. Les Alexander and Chuck has not been the owner for a number of years now(the better part of the last nine years). The Aeros have been Tenants to the Rockets as landlords longer than the Rockets were at the Compact center to the Aeros. This was the tenth anniversary of the Toyota Center. It goes back to corporate greed. Chucks goal was to bring hockey to the city and have the team be a positive impact for the city. Chuck lives here and cares about the city. Les Alexander is all about profit and cares nothing for the city(he is not a resident.

Anonymous said...

Not sure who was right and wrong but I can't help believe the attitude of Les has been the same all along.
Very similar to another transplant we had named John McMullen.
Sorry but he deserves everything he gets. Hope Toyota Center stays very very dark.

Anonymous said...

I too feel sorry for the employees but happy for them at the same time. Maybe now they can move on to an organization that will respect them. The best thing about the Aeros leaving? No more Garrity. Hopefully hockey will be back and the fans of Houston will be awarded with a class organization.