Monday, March 23, 2015

Syracuse Crunch 4 at Springfield Falcons 1 (AHL) - March 22, 2015


My AHL weekend continued on Sunday when I drove about 50 miles west to Springfield. If you do this,  take US-20 (the longest road in the nation) and stop at one of the small restaurants along the way. J&Es Yankee Diner was a nice find in Red Sox country.

Springfield is the city where basketball was invented by James Naismith back in 1891 and the National Basketball Hall of Fame is located here, but it deserves a full day and so I will return alone at some point to enjoy it at my leisure. There are several other museums here, including a sculpture garden dedicated to childhood hero Dr. Seuss, that offer a single admission card for only $18, so Springfield is definitely worth a visit for reasons other than a sporting event.



After a brief stop at McCaffrey's Public House to watch Duke defeat San Diego State, my wife (who could not escape attending this game) and I headed over to the MassMutual Center, home of the Springfield Falcons. The main entrance has both pucks and basketballs out front; of course the latter could be due to the city's claim to being the birthplace of the game, but the Springfield Armor of the D-League also played here for five years before moving to Grand Rapids for the 2014-15 season.



Box office prices started at $22, but some fans had extras here, although they were not willing to part with them for nothing. I picked up a season stub from one guy and then a normal ticket from another. As we entered, the season stub was revealed to have been already used. So the guy must print them out, sell the stub, and then enter on the printout. I was surprised that there was a scammer at this level, but it mattered not as they just tore the bottom off the ticket and let us in anyway.



A tour of the concourse revealed a number of concession stands with absolutely nothing out of the
ordinary, and a couple of lounges (one with a slightly expanded menu if you wanted a slightly expanded waistline) showing some NCAA basketball games. The main attraction was the Springfield Hockey Hall of Fame (above) with some familiar names, including Brian Kilrea, who played nine seasons for the Springfield Indians (his last season they became the Kings). He also played in 25 games for the LA Kings in their first season. Interestingly, he had played one NHL game in the 1957-58 season for Detroit, meaning that he spent 10 seasons between call ups, which must be some sort of record.



Inside you had a small lower bowl of 6-8 rows and a large upper deck, all blue seats. The Falcons do not draw well and you could pretty much sit wherever you wanted.



I found the poor turnout to be rather depressing, but not unusual as Springfield ranks 29th of the 30 AHL teams in attendance (link). The 2,198 on hand for this one brought their season average to just 3,129, a far cry from the 8,202 that Providence manages to top the New England teams. Of course, Providence is the affiliate of the Bruins, while Springfield develops players for Columbus (the uniforms are very similar) and that no doubt has something to do with the disparity.



This was the Falcons third home game in as many nights, and they had 4,200 the night before, so I can forgive the locals for being a bit lethargic. The team, on the other hand, deserves no sympathy for their pathetic performance, especially as they are fighting with Worcester for that final playoff spot.



Yes, it was their third game in three days, but that was true for Syracuse as well, who had the added disadvantage of having travelled after two home games. This was a horrible contest with neither team showing much energy from start to finish. Syracuse won 4-1 as Springfield could only muster 14 shots on Kristers Gudjevskis (above, you might remember him from his star turn against Canada in last year's Olympics). As an aside, I appreciated the Syracuse third jersey, even with its garish orange.



My wife spent the game shopping on the Internet (probably for divorce lawyers) and I am severely
indebted to her for having asked her to attend two AHL games in as many weeks. Which means many
more nice (i.e. expensive) dinners in my future.

Notes

The Springfield Indians and Kings were the same franchise and one of the original AHL teams, but they moved to Worcester in 1994, then Peoria in 2005, and are now in Utica. The Falcons were an expansion team in 1994. Still, the old banners remain, as they should because at this level it is the city that matters more than the franchise.



Next Up

Those expensive dinners will have to wait a bit as we are in the middle of March Madness! I will be in Syracuse on the weekend to watch the East Regional games featuring Oklahoma, Michigan State,
Louisville, and NC State. The Crunch have a home game on the rest day so I'll add another AHL rink to the list. Check back next week to see how it went.

Best,

Sean

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