Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Danbury Should Build a New Arena

Going to do a bit of a different perspective today as I talk about Danbury hockey.
Over the last few years Danbury, CT has had some minor league hockey teams that have not worked out. The last two, the Danbury Mad Hatters and New England Stars, were one year wonders. The Stars were a a small step above men's beer league hockey and never drew much. The Mad Hatters had a chance to make something work but a combination of financial troubles and a small league brought them to a quick end.
Before that was the two best years of hockey. The Danbury Trashers were apart of the United Hockey League (UHL) and spent two great seasons in the city. They drew huge crowds and were very competitive as they made the playoffs both seasons, with a division title and league finals appearance in the second year. Names such as Dave MacIsaac, Mario Larocque, Bruce Richardson, Brent Gretzky, Drew and Mike Omicioli, and many more were great players and personalities on the ice that made Danbury fans stand up and cheer. The nightly cheering and chants of Section 102 always got the crowd going and the visiting team off their game.
I have been to alot of hockey games over the course of my life but these were some of the best ones I have been to. Being so close to the action and the play being so competitive it was almost too good to be true. I still remember walking out of the last game when Danbury lost to the Kalamazoo Wings in the finals thinking about the next year.
However that next year never came as criminal charges were put on the owner, James Galante, and others which led to the downfall of the team and the end of some unbelievable times at the DIA (Danbury Ice Arena).
The Stars and Mad Hatters tried to fill that void but could not. During this past summer, a new league (NEPHL) tried to start a team in Danbury but could not get it done. There really was no reason as the NEPHL is really just another EPHL with even less teams. If Danbury is really serious about getting a hockey team then they need to think a bit bigger.
Danbury is a large enough city that they could support a higher level league. The Danbury Ice Arena officially holds 2,100 people, even though there were Trasher games where there was easily 3,000 people. That is not enough for a minor pro hockey team. Leave the DIA to youth, college, and men's league hockey which is what it is perfect for.
What the city of Danbury needs to do, and something that I think there would be investors for, is to build a professional arena. I'm not talking about a Madison Square Garden or Prudential Center sized arena but more like a 7,000 seat arena that is built for hockey. Make it have beautiful sight lines and right on top of the ice. Take a page from old arenas like the Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, or the old Chicago Stadium and give it a classic feel with all the modern amenities. Do that and attract a franchise for the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
A brand new arena plus quality investors will be more than enough to convince the ECHL, which has teams all over the country, does not have a team in New England. This makes complete sense for two reasons.
First, you have a city that knows what works and does not work with hockey. Danbury has tasted success and failure with the sport. The city would be able to support it and the team would be a complete hit. Knowing that a stable league like the ECHL would be in the city would draw more fans simply because it is a serious hockey league.
Second, why wouldn't the ECHL want to be in the Northeast which is a hockey hot bed in the USA? A rivalry would be automatically born between the Danbury team and the Elmira Jackals, who used to have quite the rivalry with the Danbury Trashers, not to mention the team would be in close proximity to the rest of the teams in the Eastern Division.
This seems almost too easy to put together. It makes too much sense for the city and the league itself. But knowing political circles and the economy right now, there would be almost an infinite number of hoops to jump through. But once that was all done and the first game started with a loud sold out crowd as Danbury took the ice, it would all be worth it to the city and the investors.
I am not basing this off anything, it is just my personal opinion. But thinking about the situation, I can't help but think that this has been seriously thought about at some point by someone. Just take a look at this penalty shot and the crowd reaction...it can work in Danbury.

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