Well, we come to it. Your other AHL option in the “area”, but the one that will probably interest you most. There are many benefits to the Hogs, and one crucial drawback. But we’ll focus on them here.
Venue: The Metro Center, or I guess now it’s called the BMO Harris Bank Center. Which only makes me want to call it the BM Center, and I think that’s pretty apt because it’s in Rockford. But anyway, people who have been there (namely Chris Block) say it’s a pretty cool place to see a game because it’s small. That makes the atmosphere a little more tense and the sightlines great. So there’s that. It’ll be a much more intimate setting than the airplane hangar the UC can feel like at times.
Getting there? Well, not quite as many options as the Horizon. You’re driving it, which means you’re dealing with 65 miles on I-90, which means you get to brave the Kennedy right after rush-hour if you’re going on a weekday. It’s just far enough to be considered annoying to do regularly. But if you like going to Milwaukee for Brewers games, then this is a shorter trip with less big-city hassle once you get there. Should be a smoother trip on weekends though.
Tickets: Ok, here’s the big attraction. There isn’t a ticket in the house that will cost you more than $27. Seriously, $27 gets you like, on the glass. If you want to be in the upper tank as that’s where you’re accustomed to being among your fellow unwashed and blog writers (Hey buddy!), they’re all around $15. You can’t really beat it, and probably cancels out what you just blew in gas getting out there. However, as we’ve said it’s tiny, only holding somewhere around 10k and probably less for hockey. If loads of Western Suburban Hawks fans make the trip one night on a weekend, suddenly tickets might not be as available as we’d like. But that’s a long shot.
Recognizable Players: This is probably the other big attraction for our kind. You’ll know almost the entire team. Just players that got NHL time last year is a pretty impressive list as it encompasses Leddy, Kruger, Olsen, Saad, Hayes, Smith, Shaw, Pirri, and Morin. There are a couple other intriguing prospects here as well in ol’ Rocks In My Head Kyle Beach, the seemingly now stalled Shawn Lalonde (who was going to be Nick Leddy before Nick Leddy), and the new Lalonde/Leddy Adam Clendenning. Joe Lavin is also here, and some people are still high on him. And the perpetual not-quite-there-yet Ryan Stanton is going to captain this team. And who doesn’t want to watch Brett Lebda struggle to breathe?
Basically, you’ll have seen or at least heard about every player on the roster. And while it won’t be the unholy-for-AHL talent that Oklahoma City or Charlotte or Houston will be rolling out until the lockout ends, I feel like Rockford has suck in under the radar on how much fun they could be during this dark period. That is if Shaw, Hayes, and Leddy are interested and motivated.
Hogs Fans: Can’t say. Never met one. Most of the people I know who go to Hogs’ games are Hawks fans wanting to scout the kids or Hawks fans who can’t get or afford Hawks’ tickets regularly and want to see some live hockey with a couple players they recognize or will in the future. Feel free to share your thoughts on Hogs fans in the comments. From what I hear, they couldn’t be worse than Wolves fans.
Insurance Grade: B+ There are a lot of Hawks here, or there will be whenever this silliness ends, so the quality won’t be a huge drop from what you’re used to. The tickets are cheap and the building fun. The team could be a lot of fun to watch. But you still have to drive to and spend time in Rockford, and there’s no way to dress that up.