In February I released easily one of my favorite articles to date. The now defunct San Antonio Rampage had just released the news of it’s purchase by the Vegas Golden Knights. I had the pleasure of enjoying a night of Rampage hockey with family without realizing it would be the last chance to do so in the ATT Center.
The team is now known as the Henderson Silver Knights serving as the AHL Affiliate for the Golden Knights. The AHL is currently delaying their start to at least 2021. In the midst of the NHL offseason, we take a look back at a time when the biggest concern I had was an AHL team being purchased by a group outside of the state of Texas.
End of a Short-Lived Family Tradition
On the afternoon of February 6th, the announcement was made. The San Antonio Rampage, the AHL affiliate for the St Louis Blues, had been sold.
The news came out of nowhere as fans flooded Twitter to voice their displeasure, and rightfully so. The move that will relocate the team to Nevada to become an AHL affiliate for the Vegas Golden Knights will take effect after the end of this season. Giving Rampage faithful even less time than necessary to mourn the loss of hockey in the great city of San Antonio.
The move comes as no shock to some as the Spurs Sports & Entertainment group most notably sold the all-around successful WNBA franchise San Antonio Stars to Las Vegas in 2018.
If you have ever been to the city of San Antonio you know one thing. San Antonio loves its sports. The San Antonio Spurs fan-base is one of the most faithful in all of the professional sports. Spurs are seen on every other television commercial, heard on all radio stations, and plastered on billboards along every major highway. The city bleeds silver and black.
Silver and black. These are the colors donned by the Rampage as they take the ice throughout the AHL season in the AT&T Center. Located a slapshot away from downtown San Antonio wedged in between I-35 and I-10. I briefly gave a description of my experience when the Texas Stars paid a visit just a few days after Christmas in 2019.
So why am I writing about an AHL franchise being relocated? Why does it matter to me? It’s not even the AHL affiliate for the Dallas Stars. This shouldn’t matter to me. It does matter. It will always matter.
The stage had been set months in advance. I received a text from a cousin that tickets had been purchased to see the San Antonio Rampage take on the Texas Stars and we were going to be tucked in nicely next to the Rampage penalty box.
Prime seating for a night by a frozen pond. The night of December 27th, 2019 was not only my first AHL game. It was the night I was able to share my love for the sport of hockey with my family.
One of the most endearing aspects of minor league hockey is the ability to roll out crazy theme nights and fan-friendly specials. Being that this was a Friday night, it was no exception. The Rampage would not be taking the ice tonight. It would be Los Chimuelos de San Antonio taking on my Stars. On dollar beer night. Dollar beer night, for those in the back not listening.
As if this evening wasn’t already special enough, by way of kismet, a couple more cousins decided to find tickets on the day of the game and make the trip. We all hopped in our Uber and made the anticipated trek to the rink. By Uber, I mean my aunt’s mini-van because we are a fiscally responsible bunch of hooligans.
Did I mention my mother was riding shotgun for this voyage? We are a tight-knit bunch.
The game came and went and while I can go on and on about how amazing the game itself was, mostly because the Stars took the win in a shootout, it was a different type of amazing. It was amazing because I was sharing the game I loved with people I loved.
Why am I upset? Because that opportunity is being taken away. Yes, my family is always welcome to join me for a tilt. I will take in a game whenever and wherever I can. But this was San Antonio’s hockey team. This is what brought families and friends together.
In a metropolis where basketball is the only professional ticket in town, the Rampage gave northern transplants an escape. They gave an alternative to the usual Texas sports. You see, being a hockey fan in the south isn’t always easy. Houston had the Aeros ripped away from them in 2013 and now San Antonio is suffering the same empty fate.
There is no promise of any professional hockey coming back to San Antonio. Lost are the chances for that little boy or girl to see hockey for the first time and think, “That’s what I want to do!’. Gone are the moments that bring families together. Dashed are the hopes for an NHL franchise for the foreseeable future because if ownership doesn’t see hockey fit for San Antonio, why would any investment group?
So thank you Spurs Sports & Entertainment. Thank you for giving me the chance to share that night with my family, enjoying the sport I love the most. Thank you for putting a Whataburger inside of your arena, giving a Texas kid a chance to enjoy a patty melt next to a penalty box. Thank you for showing the beautiful city of San Antonio an equally amazing sport. You gave me the chance for a night I won’t soon forget. But, how dare you.
How dare you take away the Rampage from arguably the most loyal fans in the world. How dare you give season ticket holders a chance to renew only to refund their money brush away their excitement. How dare you dash the hopes of kids in your city to see damn good live hockey on a yearly basis. How dare you take that away from them all.
But hey, that’s just business. Right?