Their mascot is a big, orange hairy guy named Roscoe, and I hear he’s a lot of fun and great with the fans. He probably makes about as much sense as the Checkers having a polar bear for a mascot. Either way, mascots are fun, and I like them!
This was all Ryan’s idea, but after he sent me some questions for The Admiral’s Roundtable, I knew I wanted in on the interview front so I sent him a similar list so Checkers fans could get to know a bit more about one of our new division rivals. They were the best team in the West last season.
So without further adieu, here’s my Q&A with Ryan:
CC – How has the city of Milwaukee embraced hockey, and how has the team embraced the city? In a city that is home to MLB and NBA teams, where does hockey stand? What about NCAA and USHL hockey? Does it get a big following as well? Does the newspaper give the team the time of day? Local news?
AR – The Admirals have been around for 40 years now, but it’s still a struggle sometimes for respectibility in the market. I don’t think anyone questions the great value for the customer’s dollar with Admirals games, and the team is consistently a winner. But they have the burden of competing for the time and disposable cash of the Milwaukee sports fan, which is tough. It’s a problem that I think a lot of teams in the Eastern Conference don’t really face. Portland Pirates? Norfolk Admirals? They’re pretty much the only games in town.
The Packers will always be the number 1 team in the market. When the Brewers are good, they’re popular, and the cost of a family-of-4 trip to the ballpark can be expensive. Then there are the Bucks, and a couple of college basketball teams…..so there’s lots of competition. Wisconsin Badger hockey doesn’t really compete with us just from a proximity standpoint, but there are a lot of Admirals fans that consider themselves Badger fans.
The newspaper coverage is hit or miss. I’m friends with the guy who writes for the Journal-Sentinel, and he does a great job….but they don’t really give him a lot of space to write. TV stations will sometimes give the score and maybe show one highlight on the late local news if there’s a home game and Brett Favre isn’t in the spotlight, but they aren’t usually at the games unless there’s a human interest story of some kind. Maybe a celebrity is in attendance.
CC – Milwaukee is home to some major breweries, but a North Carolina town has been named “Beer City USA for three years running. In a contest of best beer, who would win, Milwaukee or Asheville?
AR – If it’s straight up Milwaukee VS Asheville, then Asheville may have an edge. The Miller Brewery is great, and there are some good microbrews in the city proper, but Asheville has a pretty good rep. If it’s a State VS State contest, I think Wisconsin would win that one, as the microbrews across the State are absolutely top notch. My favorite is Furthermore Beer from Spring Green, Wisconsin. The Knot Stock pale and Three Feet Deep irish stout are outstanding.
CC – What style of play did the Admirals employ? Were they a high flying offensive machine? Did they rely on their defense, goaltending, and toughness? How is the relationship between Nashville and the Milwaukee?
AR – The Admirals tend to play a similar style as the Predators. They will often rely on the defense and goaltending, but those positions really have been the strength of Nashville scouting over the last decade or so. Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and numerous others spent lots of time here developing, and it’s rewarding to see them flourish in Nashville. The last few seasons it has been a scoring by committee kind of deal for the Admirals.
The relationship between Milwaukee and Nashville has been beneficial for both sides, and the longevity of the relationship I think speaks volumes. Affiliations come and go, but this has been a very cooperative and productive agreement. We’re the only AHL/IHL affiliate the Predators have ever known.
CC – Do you expect that a lot of folks from last year’s playoff team will be back again this year? Who are three players that should be on our radar?
AR – Goaltender Jeremy Smith emerged during the stretch run last season, as our All-Star goaltender (and new Columbus Blue Jacket) Mark Dekanich had a pretty terrible ankle injury. Down the stretch, Smitty was outstanding, and carried us into the second round of the playoffs. Highly athletic and owner of a great work ethic, Smitty should be the #1 guy this year in Milwaukee.
Forward Chris Mueller just re-signed with the Predators for another year on a two-way deal. He actually started this past season on just an AHL deal, but his performance starting in November prompted the Preds to give him an NHL contact. He can play in any situation, and has a great shot. We expect that he’ll play a lot of the year in Milwaukee, but if he has a good training camp, strange things happen.
Defenseman Ryan Ellis has a chance to make the Preds out of camp too, but the phrase that management likes to use is that “The road to Nashville goes through Milwaukee.” So if they practice what they preach, he should be quarterbacking our power play this season, as this will be his first pro season. He just completed an outstanding junior career, and has great offensive skills from the blue line.
CC – What can you tell a new Western team about life in the West? Any expectations about the other cities and teams we will face, and what the travel is like? What about division rivalries. Who is Milwaukee’s biggest rival, other rivalries within the Midwest?
AR – Our biggest rival is the Chicago Wolves. We go back with them a long time, even before we both joined the AHL. We think they’re goons, they think we’re goons….usual rivalry banter. Chicago and Rockford are probably big rivals because the IceHogs are the affiliate of the Blackhawks….so there may be a little resentment there. But with all the turnover, new affiliations, new coaches, it’s tough to say what life will be like for you out in the West, because things will look a lot different than they did this past year.
CC – What prompted you to start your blog about the Admirals?
AR – I originally wrote a much longer answer to this question….here’s the shorter version: I enjoy writing, I love hockey, and I love the team (I was actually an intern with them my senior year in college). A friend of mine and I started a different blog three seasons ago, and were pretty much writing to amuse ourselves in the beginning. But some Internet savvy fans started reading, and next thing we knew, we were getting a shout-out by the Puck Daddy blog. We had two great seasons on that blog, but ultimately burned out. I started the Roundtable last season with a larger cast and a focus on discussion. The new blog exceded all of my hopes and expectations, and we can’t wait for the next season to begin.