This is going to be an interesting season for the Springfield Jr. Blues. After making it into the playoffs for the first time in a few years back in April, the team lost its head coach, most of the team, the owners and its regional rivals. Fortunately for Springfield hockey fans, the team got three of those four losses filled, plus a great Season Ticket offer. (In the interests of full disclosure I'm not getting any remuneration to hawk season tickets, nor would I want it. I'm a season ticket holder myself and just want to pack the house so the team will have the largest audience possible.)
The team's situation took a turn for the better after the Robertson Cup Champion was determined in May. They gained a new owner in the form of San Jose Jr. Sharks owner Dan Ferguson. (The Jr. Sharks are in the North American Prospects Hockey League, a feeder league for the NAHL, USHL and Tier III NA3HL.) Ferguson has so far committed to keeping the team in Springfield for the long term, and the fans are willing to hold him to it. The front office staff has also been very welcoming to the fans: they've encouraged the regulars to show up for prospect camps, have made themselves available to the media and are keeping up with social media demands on the internet. One more thing happened with the change in ownership: the Jr. Blues are once again a for-profit organization, so ticket prices will necessarily rise for single games. There's a way around that this season, so read on!
With new ownership came a new head coach and assistant coach, Tony Zasowski and Mike Janda. Both of them are from the Chicago west suburbs of Darien and Glen Ellyn, respectively. Outgoing coach Joe Dibble went above and beyond in his duties after stepping up twice to take over the team after head coaches resigned or were fired. While he'll be missed in Springfield, he'll be appreciated in Wisconsin. Coach Dibble now takes over the head coach duties for the Janesville Jets. (Also, if you ever find yourself in southern Wisconsin during hockey season, go to a Jets game. Great fans and atmosphere there. Buy the cheese curds, too. Delicious!)
The end of the season also saw the loss of the Jr. Blues' two closest rivals, the Chicago Hitmen and St. Louis Bandits. The Bandits have gone dormant, so there's hope for their return. The Hitmen, however, seem to have folded with no information about their return. This makes Springfield's two closest rivals the Janesville Jets and Topeka Roadrunners. Both teams are hard-chargers and neither of them are pushovers. Topeka may be in the South Division, but they'll play the Jr. Blues eight times this season. It's always fun to host those teams at the Nelson Center. They'll also host teams from the West Division this year, the division with the worst travel times, by playing the Kenai River Brown Bears and Fairbanks Ice Dogs, both teams from Alaska. The team's easternmost competitors this year will be the Jamestown Ironmen (formerly the Motor City Metal Jackets, now in upstate New York) and the Johnstown Tomahawks. Yes, Johnstown, PA. That Johnstown, PA. You know, the city who once had the Johnstown Jets? The team whose exploits kind of became the basis for The Best Hockey Movie Ever? Yeah. The Tomahawks will be playing at the famed War Memorial Arena of the Charlestown Chiefs.
The final roster has not been set, but the team seems to be built from the ground up with few returning players. That will make it tougher for some of the fans, who like seeing "their boys" come back year after year. It's going to be rough but I think we'll take a liking to the new guys just the same.
One thing is left, though, to ensure a successful team: fans to watch the games. The Jr. Blues front office is running a special until September 1: buy season tickets at last year's prices. Tickets are $150 for 28 regular-season games. Season Ticket Holders also get free preseason tickets, free playoff tickets (both of which are always a nice addition), a merch discount, and more. The tickets will go up to the new season price of $225 on September 1. Save some cash, support the longest-lasting hockey franchise in the NAHL, and enjoy hockey from teams all over the country. How is that not a win-win-win situation?
The regular season for the Jr. Blues will start in Blaine, MN at the annual NAHL Showcase tournament on September 12. They'll face the Wenatchee Wild, a long-time Western division powerhouse. The first home game will be September 21 when the Jr. Blues host the West Division's Kenai River Brown Bears. Tickets at the door will be $10.
If you'd like to watch some decent hockey and not break the bank, come on over to Springfield and cheer on the Jr. Blues with the rest of us fans. Good times will be had by all.