Get ready, Ducks fans...it's time to get to know your new affiliate a little better! Think of this as a primer for this season, so as to avoid potentially embarrassing situations as the couple below find themselves in:
Funniest Blooper in Game Show History (via rodan44)
Wow. Awkward, no? That reminds me of a very unfortunate incident I once saw behind a Waffle House in a seedy part of Albuquerque when I was a younger man, but I don't want to talk about all that. In fact, forget I brought it up, and let's get to the task at hand. I thought that this might be a good time to give all of you a little bit of a primer on Crunch history, in the hopes that we can all get to know each other a little better. This is far more important than you might think for Crunch fans, for reasons we will explore in just a moment. The hope here is that if we know more about each other, we'll be in a better position to keep a good vibe going between the two fanbases. With that, here is your condensed version of Crunch History 101.
The Syracuse Crunch joined the AHL in the 1994-95 season, having relocated from Hamilton, Ontario as the top affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. That first team featured future NHL mainstays Mike Peca and Scott Walker, along with crowd favorite John Badduke as the Crunch's first resident asskicker. When I tell you that John knew how to get down and do the do, John
liked loved to fight:
John Badduke Climbs Penalty Box (via crunchsite)
From 1997 until 1999, the Crunch held a split affiliation with the Penguins and Canucks. This brief period is perhaps best known for the horrendous 18 win season of 1998-99. If I'm honest with all of you (and a slew of psychiatrists over the years) here, my liver never fully recovered. I suppose that's as good a thing as any to blame my disturbingly heroic capacity for alcohol consumption on, and, quite frankly, allows me to kick some psychological dirt over the true root causes of it all. You know what, forget I said anything...this is getting into a whole weird area here. Let's keep moving.
Starting in 2000, the Crunch hooked up with Columbus, which touched off a strange ten year relationship. It seemed like a good idea at first -- a new franchise would need to build through the draft for several years, and in the process, we thought, a good number of those prospects would develop right here in town. Boy, that almost sounds logical, doesn't it? Little did we know that Columbus would be so backward as a franchise that essentially anyone capable of walking upright would move right into their NHL mix, leaving Crunch fans wanting something better in an affiliate.
This, I think, is the part you should probably really read and reread, as what I'm about to say will give you a pretty good insight into who we are and where we're coming from. This is a franchise that has never been accustomed to winning anything. Going into a seventeenth season of existence, this franchise has made it past the first round of the playoffs exactly three times -- in 95-96, 01-02 and 07-08. Historically, this is a .500 hockey club.
Now, a lot of that lack of success can be chalked up to bad personnel decisions, poor attitudes in the locker room and underachieving players. Over the course of the last few seasons, a lot of the frustration that built up over the years came to the surface and boiled over with some questionable decisions made in Columbus. I think Nikita Filatov is a perfect example of the deterioration of the Syracuse-Columbus relationship: when Columbus was trying to make the playoffs down the stretch in the spring of 2009, they recalled Filatov. That's fine, but consider that for the rest of that season, Filatov never once set foot on NHL ice during a game. The rationale from Columbus was that it was a move designed to allow Filatov to "soak up the atmosphere" of a playoff race. Meanwhile, the Crunch finished the season two points shy of the final playoff spot in the North division.
As you can imagine, this was not a popular move among Crunch fans. When you have a potential blue-chip first rounder in your system, you'd be a fool to not let him develop. However, he needs to play in order to do that. The question, then, is why call the kid up and let him sit in the press box for a month? Well, the urban legend that sprouted up around the whole mess was that Filatov is a headcase, and his mother strongarmed the Columbus brass into the recall, using threats of packing him up and taking him home to Russia as leverage. How true any of that is or isn't is anybody's guess, but I can tell you that Columbus flew his mother over at least twice in that season, and she set up residence here in town for almost a month at one point. Take from that what you will.
With our outrage somewhat justifiable, you'd expect some kind of conciliatory gesture or at least a mea culpa from Columbus. Instead, we got nothing but bile. We only existed for the sake of Columbus, we were told, and we should be grateful for anything that we were given from the almighty Blue Jackets. It was even evident in that birdcage liner they call the Columbus Dispatch, with the word Syracuse always prefaced with the phrase "minor-league." That may not seem like much, but believe me, those little things count for a lot after a decade of shoddy treatment. For all of the years we were told that help was on the way but never came, for all the times we were told that what we had on opening night was all that we'd get for the rest of the season, for all of the years we were told to shut up and grab our ankles just once more...there was just no way that this relationship could have lasted any longer. True story -- in the weeks and months prior to last season's announcement that the partnership was over, a sizable percentage of season ticket holders (myself included) were planning to not renew for this season, simply because we were sick of being treated like garbage. Believe me when I tell you that the Ducks, in every sense, saved the Crunch. And for that, I thank you.
So, with that being said, what is it that we want? Simple -- we want a team that has a chance to win a championship. We're not asking for two dozen all-stars and to go 80-0 this season; we just want to see a team that can be in the mix next spring. I think we've proven our loyalty as fans over the years, and quite frankly, I think we deserve that championship. We're loyal to Our Guys (sometimes to a disturbing degree) and we'll support them with everything that we have. All we ask for in return is a respectable effort each and every night. Just give us a chance to believe in something, that's all.
Look, it's really quite simple in the end. We're loud. We're loyal. This is a town with very little going for it anymore -- there is very little future here for anyone with ambitions that extend beyond the city limits -- and in many ways, sports are the one thing we can hang our hat on these days. This is a place that once was, and is dying to once again be, a hockey town; all we need is the right team. Even though we've yet to put a single minute into the record books of the Syracuse-Anaheim partnership, something about this season feels different. This could very well be it. The buzz is here. The hope and potential is here. We're here, and we're waiting.