Oklahoma City Blazers Hockey

Alive and Well

Rivalry revived Pic

 

When a Canadian or northern American hockey fan first hears about hockey in Oklahoma, the reaction usually will consist of a chuckle or shake of the head. This rang true for myself personally back in 2005 at the conclusion of my junior hockey career. Several of my teammates traveled to the southern state to play for the Oklahoma CIty Blazers, a member of the Central Hockey League. All I was told was that it was a pro league, lots of fighting and older players. A few months later I signed with the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL, thinking I had found a good starting point for my pro hockey career. Within two weeks of traveling to the sunny skies of California, I got the call. I had cleared waivers in the ECHL and that same Oklahoma CIty Blazers squad was requesting my services. So cross country I trekked, to the OKC heartlands, with no clue whatsoever what I was getting myself into. I can only thank to this day some of the mentoring members of that Blazers squad in my rookie season of 2005-2006. Names like Tyler Fleck, Marty Standish, Jared Dumba, Michel Beausoleil, just to name a few. Interestingly enough, the aforementioned quartet of talent and toughness managed to commence their careers in OKC and finish them in Tulsa. I was fortunate enough to play anywhere from 2 to 4 seasons with each of these amazing players and take part in one of the more rugged inner state rivalries of its time. To this day there was nothing more cool then slamming ten thousand people into the Ford Center(now Chesapeake Energy Arena) and squaring off against the Oilers. Fortunately enough, we had exceptionally strong teams both my years in OKC and we managed to win most of our home games. The road tests however, were an entirely different animal. Prior to the BOK opening, the Oilers played their home tilts out of the downtown Convention Center. I hated playing at this place. The fans were pretty much on top of you, the ice seemed slow and the boards felt like concrete. Zero give. The Turnpike rivalry usually produced its more competitive games at this particular venue. A lot of hitting, a ton of chirps, usually low scoring and last, yet certainly not least, some good ol’ time hockey fights. 4-5 a game it seemed like back then. As a rookie defenseman, I caught myself sometimes being a spectator to the madness, needing to give my head a shake occasionally, reminding one’s self of the task at hand. Ahh yes, the good ol’ days. When the Blazers folded up shop in 2009, the Turnpike rivalry had seen its final days. The end of an era some would say. However the Blazer name has resurrected, thanks in large part to a gentleman who played over a decade between the 2 clubs, now Blazer head coach Tyler Fleck. His team’s inaugural season has re-fueled an inner state battle between two up and coming clubs, needing to go through each other to obtain success. Although the rivalry may seem young and less significant to some, the roots and origins of this great clash holds true to many. Both team’s bench bosses have suited up for their respective team’s pro club at one time or another and look to commence a new legacy. The games thus far this season have been gritty, fast paced and dirty. For a former player, now restricted to the press box, it truly is great to see these kids battle for each other and the name on their jersey. Head coach Marty Magers and his young junior Oilers squad host the visiting Blazers Sunday, 10:30am Central Standard time at the Oilers Ice Center, Tulsa, OK.