I have officially reached stage four of the grieving process. Full on depression.
I have had 24 hours to process the news that blew up my phone when I wrapped up practice yesterday at about 5:30pm. Direct messages, texts, and Facebook messages filled with apologies, condolences, and curse words…many, many curse words. I knew this day could possibly come, but nothing prepared for reading those words tweeted out by the Vegas Golden Knights and later the Rampage themselves.
Right in the damn gut. A blindside, sucker punch from the team to which I have committed so much of my personal time, thousands of dollars, and pretty much every ounce of my sports fandom over the last 13 years.
So, just what in the hell happened? According to local news sources–many of which probably had to be told where the Rampage offices were–Spurs Sports & Entertainment were losing upwards of $2 millions annually on the team. At first glance this seems…high, but affiliation fees are not cheap and travel is even worse. Paying for flights, charter buses, and hotels for up to 30 people every time you leave town will definitely make a dent in any organization’s pocket book.
Would it surprise me to hear that a million-dollar corporation inflated some numbers, using fuzzy math, to make the sale of an asset more palpable? Good Lord, no. Are you paying attention to what’s happening in this country? That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the team operated in the red every season of its existence. At some point, any organization is going to examine how to mitigate losses. It just so happened that the NHL’s newest darling franchise came calling two weeks ago and now we are sitting here with jerseys and hats and t-shirts that will be considered “retro” in about two months.
What Went Wrong
- The on-ice product has never been consistently good. In fact, outside of four playoff seasons and maybe one or two more hard luck seasons, its been downright bad. Taking a loss on a successful sports team is easier to swallow then one that consistently finishes at the bottom of the standings.
- When the AHL and NHL switched from the competitive league of the past to the developmental league it is today, the geography just didn’t make sense long term. NHL teams had a philosophy shift about 5 seasons ago. Having an affiliate with a 2-3-hour drive, or even sharing the same building, became the preferred standard. With only one NHL team in Texas, the Rampage were an afterthought more often than not. First it was Phoenix, and later Florida, leaving for Portland to reduce travel time. Then, the Avalanche came and went when they were able to purchase the ECHL Colorado Eagles. In every one of these instances, the Rampage were, in my opinion, looked at as the last kid picked in the kickball game. This isn’t sustainable long term. It also is a terrible way to build interest in the game, but I digress…
- I started this blog in 2010 because I saw an opportunity. The local media didn’t cover this team, and even worse, didn’t seem to care that it existed. You cannot grow a long-term business without exposure and this is something this franchise battled from the beginning. When you aren’t the Cowboys or the Spurs, you are “persona non grata” in San Antonio. And those teams wouldn’t want it any other way.
I could probably list three or four more, but that wouldn’t be healthy for anyone, especially me. The bottom line is; the team is gone in 30 games. For good. They aren’t coming back. And that is a tough pill to swallow for this, and many other Rampage, hockey fans.
I’ve attended almost every game over the last 13 seasons, either as a fan or as media. I poured my heart and soul and sacrificed a lot for this team. My wife and I fell in love over the course of the 2006-7 season before we had tickets. One of our first dates was the 2006 home opener against Grand Rapids. We have watched babies grow into children, young children into young men and women. We have made friends and I have made enemies because I don’t know when to bite my tongue.
I have seen many say this news is like losing a loved one, and while I can definitely relate to that, for me this is the twilight of a relationship, that wasn’t necessarily healthy to begin with. I can honestly say I put far more effort into this relationship than the other side ever did. When things were dire, when things were bleak, I was always there. I have defended this organization at nearly every turn on social media and I thought they had my back.
To have that “partner” turn around and tell me, “I am grateful you’ve been around this whole time, but I’ve found someone else”, that’s a knife in the back.
It’s like a bad episode of Snapped.
I understand the logic behind this. I understand the business side of things. The timing is where my disconnect kicks in. We were done dirty, Rampage fans. They still took payments on season tickets for next season. Hell, the team sent out an email asking us to buy jerseys for hundreds—sometimes thousands—of dollars the day before the sale was announced.
I’ll wait while you read that last sentence again…
That’s a money grab and is, at best, disrespectful to those people who committed to, what was in all honesty, a pretty terrible franchise for almost two decades. Why couldn’t this be announced after the season, instead of making us show up 12 more times to watch a lame duck franchise finish in last place. Again.
So, in 2 months, this website will go dark. The podcast that JP and I busted our asses on will go dark. RampageNate will cease to be and my Twitter will go dark. Worst of all, my passion for AHL hockey, the trade deadline, the NHL draft, and player development has been ripped from me and will go dark.
I have repeatedly said, “When the Rampage finally go on a deep playoff run, all these years of frustration will all be worth it. I can say I was there in the dark times and now I can celebrate the good times”.
What a shame that will never happen.
Thank you to everyone who has followed me on this journey, both on and offline. Thank you to my followers and loyal readers. Thank you to our listeners of the Running With the Herd podcast. Thank you to Dan Weiss, Brian McCormack, and Tony Uminski. Thank you to Nate and Anthony and Frank and, most recently Alex, for making this time of my life worth every penny. Thank you to JP for getting this hobby on track and to Topher for his contributions. Finally, thank you to my best friend, Angela for being my hockey partner for the last 13 seasons, and for giving me the support and freedom to pursue this dream of mine, even if it ended up going nowhere. Kind of like my once favorite hockey team.