I didn't even get to what I really wanted to talk about yesterday. The point about me getting excited about hockey season is it looks like Danville (IL) is going to actually have a hockey team this year. This is opposed to last season when they had a team called the Express that didn't even make it to opening day.
There have been a few hockey teams to come through Danville over the years. I've heard of the Dashers (logo pictured on left) and (Fighting) Saints. I've watched the Wings,* the Pounders, the Inferno, and I'll soon be watching the new Dashers (logo below).
*The Wings certainly seemed to be the most successful Danville team, both in terms of on-ice production and capturing some talk of the town. I can tell you they regularly filled (or nearly-filled) the Arena, something which no other team has done to this point. Of course, no team has played the quality of hockey as the Wings, either. Danville may not be a hockey hotbed, but it's not hard to tell good hockey from bad hockey. They were too good to last, though. They were bought by a different group and moved to Indy to become the Indiana Ice. I haven't been to a game in Indy yet, but I hear they're still kicking ass.
The original Dashers were just slightly before my time. Their Wikipedia page isn't the most helpful, either. All it tells me is they played from 1981 to 1986. In a possibly related note, I was born in '86. They were part of the Continental Hockey League, which folded in 1986 (probably a little more related than my birth). Unfortunately, information seems pretty scant on this league, despite it lasting longer than the AAHL that replaced it . The Dashers seemed to do all right based on their Wiki page, though. They won the regular season championship in their inaugural year, and took home the big trophy in '82 and '84. Two championships for a team that only lasted five years isn't too shabby. After the league folded, Danville went on to form the AAHL (this time as the Saints) with some of the other teams, but it only lasted a couple years.
The new Dashers kick off their season on October 29th. They'll play in the Federal League, which I'm fairly sure is the same name as the league in Slap Shot. As I understand, it is low level minor league hockey, but seems to be a much better set up than the last pro league to come though.
The Pounders were part of some Mickey Mouse league that had four teams, and to cut down on travel, there were different rosters for east and west versions of the team. It was pretty dumb and produced scores like 22-16. There was a reason we counted all of six other people in the stands for that game.
I have to say, I'm actually a little bit leery of this league, and it's directly because of the Pounders experience. The league started last year (November of 2010), and I'm told has a reputation for being a "bar fight league." They did go from six teams last year to eight teams this year, so there must be something good going on. I just really hope the hockey is worth a damn, because as I just said, the last A-league was just an embarrassment. The Wings were (and are as the Ice) a junior team in the USHL, which does happen to be the top junior league in the United States. That was top-notch hockey, and the stands were filled accordingly. The Inferno (which also moved to Indy) also was a junior league, the GLJHL, which was also solid hockey. Not quite the Wings, which makes sense as it's a Tier III rather than Tier I, and the crowds weren't quite as good. But they were a decent draw, especially for a team that went 0-50 in its last year in Danville.
I'm definitely excited to have a team back in the Palmer Arena, I think it's great for Danville, which needs something good going for it. You can bet I'll be there on opening night and really hoping for some good hockey. I'm more than ready. I'll also admit that I'm not-so-secretly happy that it looks like the NHL will get the winter season to itself, but that's a post for another time.