Good afternoon! Today, I bring to you the first in a four-part series about the Checkers new South Division teams. Just as I did last season when the Checkers joined the Midwest division, I put together a quick interview of some of the outstanding blogs and their top-notch writers to bring Checkers fans an insiders look at the new teams we are going to face more regularly.
Before I get to the Rampage interview, a couple of interesting tidbits:
- The Checkers have announced they will be playing one preseason game, on the road, in Norfolk on October 6. As this is the ONLY opportunity to drive to a Checkers game before early November, I’m planning to make the trip to Virginia. Who’s with me?
- There are multiple reports that the NHLPA and NHL have agreed to a special waiver period. Beginning now, and ending on September 15, veteran players on two-way contracts can be assigned/loaned to their AHL squads. They would have to be reassigned to their NHL squad three days before the NHL season starts in order to avoid waivers. The list of players in Charlotte this would affect includes Nic Blanchard, Brett Sutter, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Jerome Samson.
- Here’s an article about the Flyers plans to send their younger players to the AHL should an NHL lockout happen. I have yet to find any statements from the Hurricanes about their plans for players such as Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and others who are eligible to play in the AHL without clearing waivers or being affected by veteran limits.
Today’s interview is with Nathan over at Runnin’ With the Herd. You can follow him on Twitter at @RampageNate. He runs a great site, and was a wonderful source of information last year when the Hurricanes and Panthers made a big trade involving Jon Matsumoto, AJ Jenks and Evgenii Dadanov.
Chasing Checkers - Can you tell me a bit about hockey in San Antonio?
Runnin’ with the Herd – Hockey has grown exponentially in the five seasons I have lived here. In my first season (07-08), we averaged roughly 4500 per game. Every year, the average has increased, topping out this past season with a franchise record 7100+ per game. It is difficult competing with football here and the attendance takes a noticable upward swing after the first of the year. But the passion is definitely here and growing every season. The Spurs also own the Rampage so the relationship with regards to the ATT Center is flawless. Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SSE) has invested a lot of time and money into the Rampage and have a huge interest in seeing the franchise succeed both on and off the ice.
CC – How is the relationship between San Antonio and Florida?
RWTH – The relationship is night and day compared to the first time these two teams were partnered up. The first go-round, the Rampage were a complete afterthought with no concern for player development or team success. Dale Tallon and Mike Santos have made a concerted effort to improve the team in both offseasons and during the season last year as I’m sure you are well aware. The addition of Matsumoto was probably the biggest acquisition of this franchise’s history.This summer, Santos was very active in free agency for the Rampage, signing JF Jacques, Jon Rheault, and Andre Deveaux.
The Rampage have had a pretty non-descript history. I tend to look at their history in three phases. The first Florida affiliation, the Phoenix era, and the new Florida partnership. The first era saw very little success out of it’s players at the AHL level. Jay Bouwmeester played here briefly, as did Nathan Horton (Boston). Other than that, there is very little to really speak of. The Phoenix era brought us some better players. Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekmann-Larsson, Mikkel Boedker and Kyle Turris are probably the biggest names to play in San Antonio. We’ve seen a couple of veterans play here briefly before being bought out or moving on as well. Steven Reinprecht, Petr Prucha, and Anders Eriksson are a couple of examples.