Flint Township View

Warriors’ future looks to be in Flint

Brandon Pope — Sports Writer

Brandon Pope — Sports Writer

FLINT— The Michigan Warriors have had to deal with several forms of controversy since relocating from Marquette to Flint prior to the 2010-11 North American Hockey League season. The Warriors were already at a disadvantage in their new community because many fans felt slighted by Perani Arena management when the new lease was awarded to the Warriors, a junior-level squad, instead of the tenured fan-favorite Flint Generals minorpro franchise.

That alone prevented the Warriors from initially building a solid fan base. Odds are they lost several more potential fans when they announced that the team would be called the Michigan Warriors. The undeniably generic moniker left area hockey enthusiasts feeling a disconnect from the franchise because they believed that naming the team after Michigan instead of Flint showed a lack of commitment to remain in the community. And with a name like the Michigan Warriors, you could easily take off to another Michigan city if you felt the need to at any point.

Let’s also not forget the attendance, which has been absolutely unbearable from day one. Even in their deep playoff run last season, which saw them reach the championship game, the Warriors still could not manage to fill even half of the building. The attendance figures posted to the league website are often inflated by tickets dispersed instead of actual bodies in the seats. An average game at Perani Arena may sell 600-800 tickets, but in reality, some actual crowds have been as low as 200-300.

All of the above has led many to believe that this will be the Warriors’ last season in Flint. A recent report from juniorhockey.com stated that the Warriors appeared packed and ready to skip town, especially after being granted dormancy by the league last month, but the team ownership acknowledged that it was simply a strategy implied to help get the ball rolling on a new deal with Perani Arena.

Another online report surfaced last week, claiming that Warriors’ owner Pat McEachern was spotted at a recent home game, huddled with Jim Cain of Firland Management, the company that operates the 43-year old facility, leading many to believe that the deal may be done. The report was followed by another story, which stated that an agreement has been reached, but it will not be publicly announced until the proper paperwork is signed and filed.

In an attempt to get some clarity on the situation, I reached out to Firland Management to confirm the recent rumors. Although she could not go into detail, Kelly

Kryukov, director of operations for Firland Managment, said that there will be an announcement “sometime this week” concerning the Warriors future.

When it comes down to it, although I, and most of the area, would prefer a return of pro hockey to Flint, having the Warriors is better than watching the arena go unused. And from what I’ve been hearing through the grapevine, the Warriors may be here not only next season, but for years to come.

So if the Warriors ownership is willing to make that type of commitment, then a name change has to be made. The long term viability of the franchise would increase a bit with one simple move. Name the team the Flint Warriors. If you want the community to believe you’re commited to staying here, you have to show them. It may seem trivial, but something as simple as that could boost ticket sales to a certain extent.

The Warriors had a ticket drive last summer, in which they claimed they would change the name to the Flint Warriors if 1,500 season tickets were sold, pending the approval of those season ticket holders.

Ultimately, that goal was not met. Two reasons factor into those results, in my opinion. Most people around the area are just not interested in the Warriors, or at least not as interested as they were with the pro game. Not even close. However, the thing that sticks out in my mind is the fact that you gave your fans an ultimatum.

The majority of the community would support a name change, but when you back your fan base into a corner of sorts, odds are it’s not going to yield positive results. Regardless, I’m just glad hockey is still in town. It wouldn’t be the same without a team at Perani Arena. bpope@mihomepaper.com

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