Monday, December 10, 2007


A sure sign that it has officially hit rock bottom for the Kingston Frontenacs is that fans are making references to Lou Kazowski in regard to owner Doug Springer.

Kazowski is to Kingston hockey what Harold Ballard is to the Toronto Maple Leafs and what Jar Jar Binks is to the Star Wars franchise: People prefer to carry on like he never existed. Kazowski alienated an entire fan community in less than a year back in '88-89.*

Over at Fronts Talk, the diehards don't know what to do. How do you let the players, who you honestly believe are trying as hard as reasonably expected under trying circumstances know that it's not their fault? At the same time, how do you get the point across to Springer that people are fed up with how the organization in one of Canada's great hockey cities has fallen into disrepair and disrepute?

That's all on Springer, somewhat less so on GM-for-life Larry Mavety. It's their team and they should be ashamed that they charged people money on Saturday to watch the Limestone City's Light Brigade try to play the OHL's best team, the Kitchener Rangers, with three able-bodied defenceman and captain Justin Wallingford manfully lacing up despite a sore right leg. Between the coulda-seen-that-coming-from-Toronto 6-0 stomping by the OHL's best team and Friday's loss to Owen Sound, the Fronts were thrashed 11-1 over two home games.
More to the point, the combined attendance (1,585 for Kitchener; 1,745 for Owen Sound) would have fallen short of a sellout in the new downtown arena.

Keep in mind, that's the announced attendance.

Sure, the team has had bad breaks, but there is no sugarcoating Springer's inexperience as the Frontenacs owner and how it enables Mavety to do his worst. How to explain not being able to, with what amounted to a week break, being able to find a defenceman after Jonathan Sciacca suffered injuries after being hit by a car? Western Hockey League teams can trade for a player from a team two provinces away and have him in uniform within 72 hours, but apparently that's not doable in Ontario.

Even out-of-town papers, which by rule aren't too scathing toward teams of teens, are treating the Fronts like the joke of the league. Today's Kitchener Waterloo-Record said tongue-in-cheek that the new goalie, overager John Murray, has received "something akin to a four-month sentence facing rubber bullets at Kingston Penitentiary." (Incidentally, Murray will help a bit in the short run.)

Fortunately, the fans aren't taking this lying down, and are harnessing the Interweb to document every evasive half-truth, every self-serving statement, every excuse. They are not going to let Springer's "we will do whatever it takes" proclamation that he issued after firing Bruce Cassidy slip down the memory-hole, even as it fades into the ether with the team enconcsed at 18th place in a 20-team league.

Maybe it's the screwballs talking, but when people are saying of the owner, "His cheapness is legendary," and "I will never spend a dime for a ticket as long as the Springers own the team," that does filter to the vox populi. Worse yet for Springer, the fringe is becoming the centre.

Who knows what people might do, but there are good ideas:
  • Organizing a Black Friday protest, similar to the Black Wednesday protest organized by Canadian soccer fans. One suggestion is wearing black shirts reading FRONTENACS YES, SPRINGER NO to the game. It lets them know what people are saying without withholding support for the players.
  • Letters, letters and more letters to the editors.
Look, it's just junior hockey. It's not global warming, it's not Afghanistan, it's not finding me a date, it's not bankrolling Fred Claus. However, the 19 other teams in the OHL are each trying to ice a competitive team that represents its community.

That isn't happening in Kingston. It's high time that Doug Springer he has a capacity to make it happen, before we're hearing the death knell of the OHL in the birthplace of hockey.

(Long story short: Kazowski, a former minor-league player, renamed the team the Raiders, rounded up every fighter he could get his hands on and trumpeted the team's toughness with "Real Hockey Is Back In Town!" bumper stickers. By the time the rest of the league had finished skating circles around his collection of maladroit meatheads, there was talk of a move to Owen Sound -- but Wren Blair came to the rescue.)


Andrew Bucholtz said...

I like the Black Friday protest idea: Black Wednesday worked reasonably well in drawing the attention of both the public and the media to the screwed-up nature of the CSA, and meant that they had to at least make it look like things were going to change. Its long-term effect remains to be seen, but at least it got people talking: a similar protest by Fronts fans might be able to get the ball rolling (but then, you never know: somehow, the Knicks still employ Isiah Thomas despite the frequent chants to fire him at home games).

sager said...

Hmmmm.... let's feed two birds with one scone... Isiah buys the Frontenacs... between his time in Detroit and Toronto, by sheer osmosis he would have more hockey knowledge than Mavety and Springer.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Nicely done: the only problem is I don't think the Fronts have enough money to pay the eventual sexual harassment suit...

Tyler King said...

He's not going to sell the team so long as he has the city's government (and sadly enough apparently the media) on his side.

I think you guys had it going much more effectively with the 'Fire Mavety' line.

And as much as self-important Torontonian soccer fans like to think otherwise, that Black Wednesday thing didn't accomplish much more than a passing mention on the back of the sports pages and an increase in still-unheard whinging by late-night FAN 590 hosts.

sager said...


Are you old enough to be that cynical? :)

1) Kingston doesn't get a competent GM and coach until Springer shapes up or ships out. It's well-established no one wants the job otherwise. Fire Mavety, yes, but he is just one part of a larger problem.

As for Black Wednesday, the CSA thought enough of it to invite Canadian Soccer Supporters United to meet with them. If the newspapers chose to ignore a story, that's not the be-all end-all. Remember, this is 2007.

Tyler King said...

So have Springer shape up. No way has public pressure gotten an owner to sell a team. To fire a GM, however, that has worked.

And that's the default story among these soccer types, that the CSA "met" with them. A story confirmed by... them. Anonymously. And a meeting which led to... nothing.

sager said...

No one expects public pressure would force any owner to sell, but you sure can hold Springer's feet to the fire and let him known what's what among the general public.

Don't tell me, it's not worth fighting for.

Yes, that's right. I quoted Bryan Adams.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

I disagree that Black Wednesday accomplished nothing. For one thing, it wasn't "a passing mention on the back of the sports pages": there was a lot of coverage of the protest, including an excellent column in the Globe by Stephen Brunt, one of the most notable figures on the Canadian sports media landscape. In fact, Dino Rossi, the co-founder of Canadian Soccer Supporters United, certainly didn't see it as a failure. He told the Fan's Nigel Reed and Bob Iarusci that "We definitely got the attention of the mainstream, not soccer-specific, sports media." I'm inclined to agree, as every Toronto-based paper (and several others) that I looked at that week had substantial coverage of the protest. Also, this meeting that Tyler so causually dismisses as anonymously verified and leading to nothing was nothing of the sort. The Globe reported that the CSA met with Rossi on Oct. 21, so obviously he managed to make some impact. Here's the link:
The North York meeting (Canadian Soccer Federation) was a separate event, and wasn't attended by the CSA, but it also drew mainstream media attention and put more pressure on the CSA. In fact, since that time, they've started to make positive steps, such as getting around to appointing an acting president and searching for a head coach and technical director. The point is, public pressure can accomplish a lot. I doubt any owner wants to see his name continually dragged through the mud, particularly if he's looking at the team as an investment. If enough people get riled up enough, great things can happen.

Andrew Bucholtz said...

Besides, t-shirts have already been used at least once in connection to this franchise (last year's "free" fundraising concert for the LVEC where they raised funds through selling radio station t-shirts): I like the idea of bringing the shirts out again for a better cause, and I'd happily buy one.

Tyler King said...

Somehow I think attendance dropping to triple digits will worry a franchise owner far more than an isolated bunch of people wearing t-shirts.

But god knows I'm no expert since I clearly missed the earth-shattering kaboom caused by the wearing of t-shirts at a soccer game!

Because clearly the CSA wouldn't be searching for a head coach unless people had worn t-shirts. It's not like that's something they'd have ended up doing anyway.

Just in solidarity, I'm going to throw a rock out my window. I'm confident it will cause the Frontenacs to play John Murray more often.

sager said...

Either way... low attendance is ambiguous... people still paying to go and wearing T-shirts (which was just a suggestion), is a more direct message.