Saturday, 1 March 2014

Whaddya Mean "We're Done"?

Admittedly, watching the Stadium Series game between Chicago and Pittsburgh tonight was a little disappointing thanks to all the snow on the ice. Conditions were less than admirable to play hockey in despite the work of the ice crew, but at least they played the full game. In San Antonio, Texas, the Rampage and the Texas Stars only played eight minutes before the game was called by officials due to "unsafe ice conditions at AT&T Center". Seriously.

No offence to the people running the AT&T Center, but that's ridiculous. I went hunting online to find out what may have been happening in the hours before the hockey game tonight, but every site showing events for the AT&T Center showed just the Rampage-Stars game scheduled for tonight. So what gives, AT&T Center? Was this hockey game not planned far enough in advance?

Thanks to the power of Facebook, it appears that the AT&T Center decided to hold a rodeo last night. I've been scouring San Antonio event sites and the AT&T Center website, and I don't see anything about a rodeo last night. Could these fans be misinformed? How could there be a rodeo in the AT&T Center last night if it wasn't on the arena's list of events or the event schedule?

The San Antonio Stock Show rodeo ran from February 6th through February 23rd, and the NBA's San Antonio Spurs were the first team to play in the AT&T Center on February 26 as the Rampage were on the road against Utica that night. The Spurs also played last night at home against the Charlotte Bobcats. The Rampage were scheduled to play tonight in their first home game since the conclusion of the rodeo. So how the heck could the ice not be ready?

According to hockey blog 100 Degree Hockey, the fans are right about the rodeo causing a problem with the ice.
The rodeo road trip forces the team to melt down the ice each year and then rebuild it at the conclusion of the trip. The Stars were the first visitors to the AT&T Center after the road trip. Several holes were present on the ice that went down to the concrete. San Antonio skater Matt Gilroy snapped a skate blade, which called attention to one of those holes in particular. There were many early stoppages as the referees worked with the ice crew to seal up the holes.
In other words, the staff at the AT&T Center simply didn't have the ice ready for the game tonight. One week after the rodeo finished, the Spurs played two games without incident, but the second tenant in the AT&T Center couldn't play its game because the ice crew simply couldn't get the ice ready.

That's pretty pathetic if you ask me. First, the staff at the arena clearly had enough time to move the rodeo out and set up for the Spurs, so even if the rodeo and all its bells and whistles were out by Wednesday or Thursday, the ice should have been started as soon as the rodeo was out. It takes time to put in brand-new ice with lines and the blue paint for the creases, and to have that all freeze properly. This isn't just some three-hour project. Whoever is in charge of that ice crew should be looking for a new job tomorrow.

Secondly, if there were holes "present on the ice that went down to the concrete", why would the coaches and officials even consider having the players on the ice for a game? Referees Dave Lewis and Ian Croft should be reprimanded for trying to play the game with the ice as it was. The officials usually arrive early, and should have gotten a report from the ice crew as to the conditions of the ice at whatever time they arrived. Why didn't they monitor this situation? If they did monitor it, why did they start the game with these obvious problems?

The coaches and players also arrive early, and I know a few of them would have been sitting in the stands or out on the benches before they changed. They should have been able to see these holes as well. Why didn't anyone say anything about the ice conditions before the game started?

In any case, San Antonio head coach Tom Rowe approached Texas head coach Willie Desjardins at a stoppage, and the two men discussed the problems with the ice after witnessing Gilroy break his skate blade. It seems common sense took over at that point - 7:59 into the game - and the two teams headed to their dressing rooms as the game was suspended. The fans were quite unhappy with this decision, but it is the right thing to do in a case like this.

I feel for the people who came to see this game who were sent home way earlier than they would have liked, especially those who came from a distance to see this game. There should be serious questions from the AHL for both the AT&T Center management and the officials tonight as to why this game even got started. The AT&T Center should be held responsible for this debacle, but I doubt the fans or the teams will receive any sort of apology for their shoddy work.

Hockey in the south works in most cases, but not when people stop using their heads.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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