Turn Off The Lights, The Rampage Are No More

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.

8 thoughts on “Turn Off The Lights, The Rampage Are No More

  1. Have you seen the AHL Map teams are east coast west coast. I will never believe they lost money bc year after year with some bright spots we stunk. But we all still signed up. Ticket prices rose. I agree with only a couple of your points … we are persona non grata. We never get coverage even when the bloody Stanley cup was here. A team here is viable. I believe it bc I have seen it! Greed it sickens me bc Rampage Hockey was a family affair. It enriched this city on so many levels. They gave young kids the ability to dream of a future on ice. It is a travesty

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  2. Nate, I’m just heartsick for you guys. This brings back memories of this happening in OKC just a few short years ago…. only you guys actually cared. You have a fan base that cared. I’m so sorry for you all.

    I’m going to miss seeing you on Twitter…. you’ve been much, much more than just a Rampage dude for me, for the past many years. I’ve enjoyed your Tweets on every subject; not just hockey. I loved tuning into the RWTH podcast…. regularly when the Barons were in OKC, and when I could, in the time they’ve been gone. You & JP *DID* put in so much work, and just know someone away from Rampage nation even noticed, and appreciated what you guys did. Thank you for everything.

    I loved the couple of chances I got way back in the day to help you out here on the blog by shooting some photos that you used….. I really appreciated you wanting to use my work. That meant the world to me. I only wish I could’ve made it down there to shoot for you in person.

    Know that you made an impact in my life, and that you will be immensely missed. I hope we can cross paths again someday, somehow, somewhere in life. If you’re ever in OKC during hockey season, come by Blazers Ice Centre and watch a University of Oklahoma game….. I’m shooting for them now.

    Much love to you and JP, and everyone who’s busted their ass with the Rampage for all these many years. You all did a hell of a job.

    See you later, good sir.

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  3. It is hard to believe this day has gotten here and timing as you stated was terrible. It has been such a big piece of my and Wesley’s life. I have fond memories of watching him along with your two running around Northwoods during practice. I have met so many wonderful people that I enjoy visiting with and spending time with. I think the worst part is knowing the odds of ever seeing hockey in San Antonio again.

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  4. Me and my wife became fans of the Rampage by chance and spent the last 10 years as STH’s. It turned out to be a great choice and we have had an awful lot of fun over that time. We have made many friends that we will hopefully keep up with.I will not be able to watch an NHL game in the future and say that I saw that guy play for or against us when his career was starting.I found your podcast extremely informative and hilarious at the same time. It helped with my education on the team and hockey in general. Thank you and JP for doing what you all did. I will immensely miss your views and comments on things. Hopefully we will see hockey in San Antonio again someday. Good luck to you. One more for you: GO REDWINGS.

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  5. Incredibly thoughtful and well written article. I’ve reached this phase of processing as well, thanks to this article and just contemplation in the last couple days I’m able to feel the sadness without the hate. I’m grateful to everyone we’ve met and especially this site and the podcast, that is what introduced my wife and I to the Rampage when we moved here 5 years ago. Lifelong hockey fans, and to our surprise San Antonio has an AHL team. If that doesn’t tell you how little they tried to gain exposure I don’t know what will. I digress, I’m thankful for the time we had with San Antonio hockey, and with that gone we will look to move to Iowa as planned last year but we held off because of the Rampage and the great people we met. Here’s to SA hockey fans, Thank you.

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  6. Wow what an awesome read. Thank you. As a 9 yr STH I know how this blind side hurts .I even paid in full for next season (front row seats) to have something to look forward over the summer.
    We have always said there is no media support here. Maybe an occasional 2 lines in the sports section.
    Such a sad for us hockey people

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  7. Nate you’ve made my understanding of now my favorite sport even that much more enjoyable. Even in the rough times, you’ve added a glimmer of light to watch the Rampage play. Though I would leave a game early out of frustration, your Twitter updates kept me updated. I’ve followed past players further there carriers in the NHL. I’m going to miss that in watching games on TV. Words can’t express my gratitude for all you’ve done.

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