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.
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.)