To understand how far the subject of Crunchology has come, we must look back at where it all began. Hockey in Syracuse can trace its legacy back to the early nineteen thirties, starting with the now-defunct/transformed IHL. The International Hockey League started in 1929, and was a precursor to the American Hockey League (AHL). Syracuse joined the IHL in 1930 as the Syracuse Stars. The city would keep that name when it jumped to the AHL in the league's 1939 inaugural season. The Stars would win the championship their first year in the AHL, making them the first team ever to win the Calder Cup.
Unfortunately, Mr. Calder hasn't been seen in Syracuse since. But that's all going to change this year, right, class? Right!
Until the Crunch era, the AHL struggled to find a foothold in Syracuse. The Salt City, named for the tons of salt harvested in Syracuse during the 1800's, saw four AHL teams wander through before the Crunch took over in 1994. Those teams included the aforementioned Stars (1939-1940), the Warriors (1951-1954), the Eagles (1974-1975), and the Firebirds (1979-1980). Syracuse has also been host to teams from other leagues, including the Eastern Professional Hockey League, the Eastern Hockey League, and the North American Hockey League. None of those leagues exist today, although the NAHL has one important footnote in hockey movie history: it served as the inspiration for the movie Slap Shot. As any Crunch fan worth their salt (Get it? Salt? Salt City? Okay, moving on...) will tell you, there was a scene from that movie shot in the very same building the Crunch calls home. Up until an improvement project a few years ago, some of the same seats featured in that scene were still in use at the War Memorial.
On a side note, donations for a fund for those of us with permanent back problems from sitting in seats that old arena night after night will be collected at the end of class.
In 1994, a team known as the Hamilton Canucks relocated from Canada to Central New York and chose Syracuse as their destination. I was all of nine at the time and had no idea there was a goldmine of entertainment 30 miles south of my location. A certain online source (thanks, Jimmy Donal Wales!) informs me that a public vote was held to name the team and, somehow, the moniker of “Crunch” was chosen.
Which, of course, brings us to a very important question: What is a Crunch?
I wish I could tell you, dear students. I really do. Nobody seems to know for sure, but there are theories as to how that name became the favorite. Some say the team was attempting to get on the good side of Nestle’s Chocolate, a company that had a production factory in a near-by city. This theory could have some validity to it, given the amount of Crunch Bars the team used to give away before said company closed that factory. Others say a “Crunch” is the sound bodies make when they collide against each other or the boards during a game. Still others have their own theories, most of which I cannot reproduce in mixed company, for various reasons.
Being honest, whomever is right will probably never be revealed. Those in the first group are generally looked at as condescending poo-poo heads, as they tend to be a bit disdainful towards such blatant pandering. Those in the second group are generally patted on the head and handed a cup of warm milk by said condescending poo-poo heads, an action that never goes over well. The final group...well, let's just say we don't talk about them much. As such, the three groups tend to be segregated at all times, much like certain species of fish or beetles or junior high students.
As you can probably deduce, the arrival of the Crunch in 1994 was met with quite a bit of skepticism. In all, eight professional hockey teams, four of them AHL-level, had tried, and failed, to make a go of it in the Salt City. Nobody expected this new team to still be in Syracuse 18 years later. In fact, its long run has placed it among the AHL elite in terms of clubs that are still under their original ownership and in their original location.
My, my, look how time flies when having fun! We're out of time for this week's lesson, class. I'll see you back here next week, where we'll answer the following question: What has made the Crunch tick all these years?
You can drop your donations in the basket on your way out.
Oh, what's that? What's up with the albino monkey? He's actually an ice gorilla, and, never fear, we'll get to that next week. He doesn't bite, at least not that we're aware of. We're pretty sure his jaw doesn't move.
Have a great day!