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With the Avs out of action (IR-NHL Stupidity) and Jibblewife and I jonesing for hockey, we grabbed the Munchkin and went to our First Denver Cutthroats game last night. Minor league hockey isn't really something I'm very familiar with, unless you count the 08-09 Avs. Tapeleg has always been the Minor League Hockey savant.

Ryan Boulding over at Hockey on the Rocks and Cheryl over at Mile High Hockey have game write-ups, and I only have two thing to add to them: The Brahmas lone goal scorer was spectacularly named Ian Boots, who is required, by law I believe, to play for a Texas team. My first Avs game was this 8-1 win against Edmonton. My first Cuthroats game was a 7-1 affair. Good 1st impressions are good.

The hockey itself was better than I expected, given that the Cutthroats are two levels removed from the NHL. The players are still fast and big, and the hockey is of mostly good quality (the Cutthroats being a lot better than the Brahmas last night). Being a minor league hockey newbie, I wasn't sure what to expect but I probably wasn't expecting quite that high quality. Nevertheless there were moments where the difference between CHL and NHL were obvious, as players had more difficulty receiving passes on their sticks, which led to less fluid play. It made me appreciate how difficult it is to cycle the puck, as both teams had more trouble than an average NHL team. However, The difference was most pronounced when Kyle Quincey touched the puck. The superiority of his play compared to other players on the ice was obvious, as he was able to skate the puck out of his zone quite often.

The experience was top-notch, and I will surely attend more games, and bring along others (my 6-year old nephew in particular). I kid you not, the Cutthroats have a better Board screen than the Avs, which was really nice. I actually couldn't believe how much it enhanced the experience, as replays were actually viewable. While pro teams always have an air of distance, and in some cases indifference towards their fans (ESPECIALLY the Avs, but it was still prevalent in more fan-friendly arenas like the Shark Tank in SJ) the Cutthroats have done a good job of fostering the small-town feel and charm of minor league sports, without tackiness and unprofessionalism that infects other minor league teams. Friendly and professional is a great way to describe my Cutthroats experience. The embodiment of this would be the Cutthroats mascot: Gil.  He was fun and engaging but not too goofy. He came down to say hi to my 21 month old son, but recognized my son was freaked out by him. He then backed away and waved. That recognition of a weary baby is a small thing that allowed this family to have a fun experience, instead of a kid terrified of a green fish all evening, and something that stuck out in my mind. (My son spent the entire evening keeping an eye out for Gil to keep him at arm's length. I'd call their relationship "Love-Hate" right now)

This is my son's new arch-nemesis: Gil


I will definitely go to more games, but one thing I worry about is the ability to build an emotional attachment to the team, in the same way I can and do with other sports teams. Players names didn't match what was in the guide (4 didn't have numbers listed, #3 Markus Lauridsen was listed as #6. #13 didn't have a name on his sweater yet.) This kept me from building any kind of investment in players. One of the bigger complaints I have was that there was nothing that I could find to put the game in any kind of context. I couldn't find league or division standings anywhere. We downloaded the Cutthroats app mid game but still couldn't find basic stats or standings anywhere. It's early in the season, but not knowing how both teams have fared so far in the season gave the game a small sideshow affair.

The Cutthroats web presence could be increased as well. The Droid app is actually pretty good, and the Website is professional but like the in-arena experience there's little to put the Cutthroats season into any perspective. No "Standings" link and only one buried link to the CHL website. With the inability to watch them on TV and being forced to buy the CHL package on the internet ($150/season!) it's going to be hard to build those attachments without attending a ton of games.  $150 is almost as much as Center Ice, and I could get all Lake Erie games for $199. I had no idea the Cutthriats just waxed the worst team in the league, and have actually had a bit of a rouch start.

All-in-all it was a very pleasent experience, and a great hockey alternative in the Denver area. I hope the support for this team builds as I know they made at least 2 (maybe 3) new fans last night.