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A Plea to Resurrect the Thoroughblades

 

 

Last week, I was sitting in my favorite (okay, only) armchair at the end of a long day of nannying (I average three playgrounds a day during the summer. No big deal, but kind of a big deal), with my windows open enjoying the fresh night air.    All of the sudden, a literal roar came over the city of Chicago and entered my apartment, accompanied by heavy footsteps as those in my apartment building ran up and down my hallway, whooping with glee. I knew only one thing could have happened: the Chicago Blackhawks had won Game 7 against the hated Red Wings of Detroit in the Western Conference Semifinals.

 

Quick recap: Hawks were down in the seven-game series 3-1, came back to tie the series 3-3, were about to win Game 7 when the refs made a controversial call and rescinded a goal, and finally won in Golden Goal overtime. Sure, it wasn’t the Stanley Cup Finals, but for Chicagoans, it was a huge momentum swing that has (thus far) carried into the Western Conference Finals against the LA Kings. Long story short, while I helped my fellow Blackhawks fans revel in the moment, I got to thinking: whatever happened to the Kentucky Thoroughblades? Lexington residents of the late 1990s, prepare for a trip down memory lane. Or should I say, a “stick” down memory lane?

 

(@JLockridge)

 

I crack myself up.

 

When the Kentucky Thoroughblades hit the ice at Rupp Arena for the first time in 1996, there’s a 80% chance I was in the arena- assuming it was before 8 pm (I was seven at the time). “Faster than Lightning on Ice,” the Blades were a minor league hockey team affiliated with the San Jose Sharks, and the site of hundreds of birthday parties for elementary school students across Central Kentucky. Despite a losing record their first two seasons, attendance was high, averaging 7,741 fans per game during the 1997-1998 season. Unfortunately, as the Thoroughblades’ success increased (they won their division in 2000 and 2001), the attendance ironically decreased, and the Blades were replaced in 2001 by the Lexington Men O’War, who lasted one season before leaving the ice forever.

 

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 9.37.35 PM

Zdeno Chara, in 1997 as a Thoroughblades Defenseman and now, as a member of the Boston Bruins- who are leading Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the Stanley Cup.

 

After experiencing the passion Chicagoans and Midwesterners in general have for hockey (if an NHL player isn’t from Canada, he’s probably from Minnesota), I’m embarking on a quest, driven mostly by the lack of Thoroughblades vintage apparel on eBay: Kentucky, we need the Thoroughblades back- and here’s why:

 

Kentuckians know NOTHING about hockey. My biggest takeaway from talking to some of y’all on Twitter about the Thoroughblades: no one in Kentucky knows ANYTHING about hockey. I feel you, friends. We live in a warm and sunny state with little opportunity to hose an ice rink in our backyards. I was in the same boat a mere four months ago, before I went to my first Blackhawks game. As far as I was concerned, it was basically soccer on skates with forced time-outs for players every now and then. Trust me when I say there is more to the game than just fights and goals. I ask you to trust me, because I’ve still only been to that one game and I’m still fine-tuning my hockey knowledge. Bringing back the Thoroughblades will remedy some of that lack of knowledge.

 

The atmosphere at a live hockey game is the best in professional sports. (Notice I said “professional” sports- I will always champion collegiate sports over professional) At hockey games, fans are up in an instant, singing along with their team’s song whenever a goal is scored for the home team, booing lustily when an opponent commits a dirty foul, craning for the best view of a fight on the ice, and generally being the enthusiastic, maybe even rabid, slightly beer-muscley fans that professional sports teams should enjoy. When the men’s basketball team isn’t holding court, fans would enjoy the electric atmosphere that comes with the ice being revealed on the Rupp Arena floor.

 

Speaking of atmosphere… Some of you might be thinking, “But Kristen, if I want to watch hockey, I’ll just go see the UK Hockey Club. Those games get me hyphie!” Wilder Treadway, you make a good point. The UK Hockey Club is (shockingly) ranks third at the university in spectator sports, behind only basketball and football (which also shows that Lexingtonians would be receptive to another hockey team in town). But- one of the reasons for that high attendance number is the infamous midnight puck drop. An anomaly among college hockey clubs, the late start time gives college students plenty of time to get nice and loose before arriving at the off-campus rink ready to rumble. The Thoroughblades, however, were known for their family-friendly atmosphere and promos that appealed to the kids. Elementary school students participating in the “Book It!” program often got free tickets to games, and as my friend Elizabeth Ann Duncan recalls, “One time they gave away free Ice Breakers gum and Surge when we were leaving. It was like a 3rd world food drop. I’ve never seen so many middle schoolers losing their minds. Might as well have been giving out cash.” Girls love Beyonce. Kids love Lucky the Thoroughblade mascot. Parents love happy kids. It’s that simple.

 

Free stuff. The second biggest takeaway from Twitter? Y’all remember the free stuff you got at Thoroughblades games. The loot ranged from the normal pucks, and t-shirts to the more random salad packets, a coupon blimp, and yo-yos (SO. NINETIES). We need more free stuff like that. Can a girl get a koozie, or maybe some cheap neon sunglasses?

 

Thoroughbabes. For the fellas- these were the lovely ladies who slid around on the ice slinging t-shirts, with clever names such as “Baby Ice.” Oh- and the chance that this poster could be reimagined:

 

 

Rugged hockey dudes. For the ladies- ever felt that the men of Lexington are a little too Southern Proper for you? Does seeing a guy fight turn you on? Enter the manliest men in sports, hockey players, who come with more beard than teeth.

 

For the love of God, give me something to do during the off-season. College basketball ends in early April. Baseball is too slow, and Kentucky fans don’t have much incentive to watch the NBA playoffs unless a former Cat is playing. Hockey lasts through half the summer. Entertain me, men with sticks and helmets!

 

And finally- I need to know how on earth a horse can skate. It keeps me awake at night. If the team comes back, maybe my questions will be answered.

 

Got a favorite Thoroughblades memory? Reminisce in the comments section. @KristenGeilKSR

 

Article written by Kristen Geil

51 Comments for A Plea to Resurrect the Thoroughblades



  1. ...
    8:11 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    crickets



  2. Rise
    8:17 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    chirp….chirp…



  3. Coach
    8:24 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Keep your eye on the ball. With all that swinging, you’ll get a hit one of these days.



  4. Shawon
    8:27 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I’ll give you one reason not to bring back that hockey team.

    Tim Woodburn



  5. MattD
    8:27 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I see the headline says something about hockey. I don’t care, and feel like I need to make known that I don’t care. Ergo, I take the time to post something snarky about how hockey sucks, or the writer sucks, or how this isn’t related to University of Kentucky. i get out of this comment some satisfaction, that my thoughts regarding the topic are known to others…. its gratifying. I pause, pop my back, then smile at how clever I am, or how stupid others are. I then hit refresh 13 times, to see how many people mentioned me by name or number, because, obviously, people care about what I have to say.
    /signed Troll



  6. YouDidntReallyWriteThat
    8:31 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    You’re article gave me diarrhea 🙁



  7. Bored
    8:36 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I remember the days when at least if the topic wasn’t about UK sports, it was about something funny or amusing. Those day’s are gone, and this site is on the downhill slide. Too many writers rambling on about nonsense.



  8. bigbluelou
    8:37 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Having been to exactly 1 pro hockey game in my life, I am glad that it is no longer in the state. No doubt it takes a tremendous amount of skill to play it but it is one of the most boring games I have ever watched– slightly behind soccer.



  9. Ridge Runner
    8:50 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I do recall a huge brawl between us and the Louisville Panthers. Imagine that. Anyway, not sure when it happened but I even remember it featured on a small segment with ESPN actually.

    If my memory is correct, it seemed like the Thoroughblades provided players to the San Jose Sharks??



  10. pfife dawg
    8:53 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Hockey is pretty good in person. But then they ‘retired’ a T-blade jersey and hung it next to the damn KY BBALL banners. Banned for life. Good riddance.



  11. Ridge Runner
    8:57 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Rodney Dangerfield… “I went to a fight & a hockey game broke out”

    Great quote.



  12. Hockey fan for life
    8:58 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Sadly I was sad while the city of Chicago was celebrating. The Red Wings had a great run but the Blackhawks were the better team all year. Listen guys, Hockey is a hell of sport to watch and if you ever go to a Red Wings, Blackhawks or any of the original six teams games you will see a fun sport to watch. I know we are a southern state and we shouldn’t like hockey but we could make hockey big. I don’t think we should go after a minor league team but I think we should go after a team that could one day compete in a Stanley Cup. Nashville has a team and so does Tampa Bay so why not Lexington. Our fans can get crazy for anything and hockey would be worth getting crazy for. By the way I am from the south and I still love hockey just as much as a person from Minnesota or Michigan.



  13. realme
    9:00 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Kristen is SO right. I need something to get excited about after basketball. Thoroughblades games were so fun, much more raucous crowd than a basketball game, and you could get a great seat for nine bucks.



  14. BBN
    9:02 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    semi-pro hockey needs to come back to the state period, in the form of the T-Blades or the Panthers… fun to watch and follow, plus it helps passing the time between basketball and football lol



  15. dang
    9:07 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Hockey is for yankees. Point blank. Period.



  16. Frew Drunklin
    9:09 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I remember back when I started at UK in 96. Some friends and I never missed a home game in 96 or 97. They were so much fun. That was mostly due to massive amounts of alcohol consumed before hand.



  17. Ridge Runner
    9:10 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Will be so glad when this site becomes registered. Some of these comments are just plain mean and people hide behind the screen.

    If it’s a brat kid under 13 I can understand. But you have to know it’s not.



  18. Hockey fan for life
    9:11 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    16) No that is incorrect, Los Angeles, Nashville, Tampa Bay, and San Jose all have proffesional hockey teams. The Kings even won the Stanley Cup last year. We probably are never going to get a pro basketball team but we could get a pro hockey team. Hockey games are so much fun to go to and like Kristen said, you can get free stuff. A hockey team should return to Kentucky and we need to get one that plays in the NHL. #BringtheNHLtoLexington



  19. Kirk White
    9:13 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    The T-Blades were doomed by to large of an arena. The new arena at the Kentucky Horse Park would be the right size for minor league hockey. The fans could use a new team and the horse park and the residents of lexington could use the revenue of pro hockey. WIN WIN.
    GO BRUINS !!!



  20. Hockey fan for life
    9:14 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Ridge Runner I couldn’t agree more. Kristen wrote a really good aricle and she’s totally right. These people that make fun, laugh, and criticize can’t do any better themselves. They knock people down at stuff they would never be good at. Kristen is a great writer and so is every single on of the writers on the site.



  21. Ridge Runner
    9:15 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    20, good point. Correct me if I’m wrong but I beleive the TBlades attendance was decent 7500-8000 the first few years (for a minor lg). But yes, Rupp swallowed them up.



  22. Ridge Runner
    9:18 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    21, Yes sir… I hear ya. Really sad to show zero courtesy and express such terrible comments to any of the writers who bust their butt providing a variety of articles in an attempt to reach out to folks.



  23. FlashOfBlue
    9:19 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I still think Thoroughblades is one of the most creative names ever. Was sad to see them go away.



  24. calej93
    9:32 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I second the motion.

    I shared the opinions of many of my fellow intelligent commenters not too long ago, until I went to my first Evansville Iceman game this winter. It really is a fun experience. I had a better time at that minor league hockey game (and the NHL one I went too later) than I’ve had at almost every NBA game I’ve been too.

    Really no downside to the idea



  25. Wampus
    9:49 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Nice article. Those of you that have never tried should go to a minor league hockey game. As Kristen said, you can get right up on the ice for next to nothing, and these guys beat the crap out of each other. Besides, you can’t tell good hockey from bad hockey.



  26. Jerns
    9:49 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I have been to several Preds games, and I must say, they are good fun. I do not live in the area so idk if I could get behind a minor league team or not (what with all the best players always leaving), but I still agree with most of this article.



  27. bill
    10:21 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Theres a reason they aren’t here nemore…hockey sucks. Remember they even tried the men o war after that.



  28. I don't get it guy
    10:35 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    What is the point of this. I don’t get it.



  29. Kygrad82
    11:06 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I agree with the hockey lovers. Felt the same as the other haters until I went to a Blackhawks game last year. Totally hooked now, attended game two of the hawks/red wings series and had a blast.



  30. Legends?
    11:09 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Hockey season doesn’t last much longer than basketball. Go to a Legends game on Thirsty Thursday and you can get free stuff, cheap booze, and have a good time just as you could at a Hockey game.

    Plus, a decent percentage of the population in Kentucky actually likes baseball.



  31. Bring Back the Nordiques !!!
    11:10 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    In Minnesota, kids shooting pucks on a frozen lake into a makeshift net is equivalent to shooting basketballs into rickety goals mounted on barns in Kentucky.



  32. Mutt70
    11:13 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    I read KSR quite a bit. But I was SO happy to read this article. And I wanted to post earlier, but the vile and disgusting hatred for the article in the first 10 or so comments completely through me off. But now that I’ve seen some positivity creep in, I’ll drop my two cents. I LOVED going to T-Blade games. To me, it was basketball on fast break ALL THE TIME and goaltending was legal. Fast, upbeat, and fun. And FIGHTS! That guy that bumped into you? BEAT DOWN TIME! But with sportsmanship all around. And they were GOOD. Competing for the championship every year. Kristen mentioned in the article that Zdeno Chara is still playing (and STILL playing, since Boston won since this was posted), but she didn’t mention two potential Hall of Fame goalies who shared net time here. Mikka Kiprusoff, who was too good to sit behind the guy he was backing up so he got traded to Calgary. And the guy in front of him, Evengi Nabakov, playing now for the Islanders. (And I have Todd McFarlane figs of both 🙂 ). I’ll never forget when the T-Blades were trying to jump ahead of the Cincy Mighty Ducks in the standings, and Nabakov just happened to need a game or two back down in Lexington. Stone cold shut them down. Good times. Great piece, Kristen. Very much enjoyed it, and I’d love to have the Thoroughblades back.



  33. Tylerelrubio
    11:27 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Good article, my best friend growing up was from Alberta, Canada and instilled a love for hockey in me. Besides College b-ball, hockey is my favorite sport to watch. I def miss minor league hockey in Kentucky!



  34. Hockey Hair
    11:55 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Glad I play youth hockey in Lexington for many years. Only to learn tonight that I know NOTHING of hockey just because I’m Kentuckian. Thanks for the tip!



  35. Jason
    11:57 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    The whole reason the t blades left was rupp arena. They charged them outrageous fees to rent the place for every game, even the consistent top 5 attendance rankings weren’t enough because of rupp. Get em into the new horse park stadium and a hockey team would thrive in lexington



  36. Hockey Hair
    11:58 pm June 7, 2013 Permalink

    Actually instead of bringing back semi-pro hockey, I wish UK would just start both men’s and women’s hockey teams. Sustained fan success is more likely to happen that way, especially with the success the Cool Cats have had over the years.



  37. roflectomy
    2:45 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I agree that we need hockey back in the bluegrass. Whether that’s through official UK hockey or through a new semi-pro team. I went to Thoroughblades games when I was 9-10 years old and it was a great experience. I love hockey and spent a lot of time explaining the rules to people over twice my age.

    I agree with others that the issue was Rupp Arena. The cost of playing there was way too high. Put them in the horse park’s new arena and they have a chance. Kentuckians are very loyal and proud people and will support just about any sport, regardless of what some of the idiots in these comments state.

    Also, for those of you who complain that this isn’t about UK sports, you should just stop coming here. Right now, UK sports are not really going on. It’s the off season for all the sports. There’s only so much they can talk about. I’m sure you’re the same people who cry when you see the same thing posted on here more than once. Also, if you had been paying attention recently, you’d know that Matt is looking to expand KSR to include more than just UK sports. If you don’t like it, go start your own website. 🙂



  38. Ray Chulray
    5:47 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    This article, litterally, is: HORSE HOCKEY.



  39. Chi-TownCat
    6:49 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Enjoyed the article and GO HAWKS!



  40. Carlos
    8:34 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Hockey players and people from Kentucky have a lot of missing teeth and they like to fight even when they are not drunk



  41. Smitty
    9:48 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    11- no they didn’t. It was hung across from the championship banners…. Not next to retired UK ones.



  42. Turner the Burner
    9:51 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    TheThoroughblades were a pro team… Not semi-pro. They were, in baseball terms, a triple A team.



  43. Smoov
    10:11 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Anyone remember Oduya (spelling)? He could be counted on to fight literally every night if not multiple times per night lol…. I care about hockey none but remember that 2 year stint fondly as I was in 9-10th grade and worked for the organization. Every free minute we had we’d go watch and wait for Oduya to mix it up. Good times



  44. Guy who says what you were thinking
    10:36 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Hockey sucks. Except for maybe the Olympics, but, then again, curling is somewhat interesting during the Olympics, so that would mean it is the Olympics that is interesting which brings me back to my original point…hockey sucks.



  45. Big Blue Earl
    11:30 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I really enjoyed going to the hockey games. It is a great sport to watch live. It just seems so bland on tv anymore. I went to every Thoroughblades-Panthers game when the two teams were in existence together (2 years, I believe). They even hooked up in the AHL playoffs one season. I only remember one Blades-Panthers game that didn’t have a fight involved at some point and that was in the playoffs. Several Thoroughblades players were part of the Panthers roster because the Blades had San Jose and Florida players when they first started playing and then Florida struck a deal with the Louisville Panthers when they started in 99-00 and some of the players on the Blades went to Louisville like Goalie Sean Gauthier, who I believe was called Goats and was a fan favorite playing 40 games with the Blades in 1999 and Dave Duerden and Dan Boyle, who is playing in the NHL currently. The AHL, where the Blades and Panthers played, was like the triple A of hockey and many players were up and down from the NHL during the season. This article brought back great memories. Thanks for sharing it with us.



  46. shields eyes
    11:36 am June 8, 2013 Permalink

    Too much alcohol flowing at the games. The fans’ behavior was terrible. Glad they left.



  47. California Golden Seal
    12:14 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    33)Thanks for reminding me that Kipper played for the Blades. Totally forgot that. Easily, one of the top ten great guys in the NHL. Loyal, talented, unassuming, generous. The City of Calgary loves him. The way small market cities in Canada revere its hockey players isn’t all that different than the way Kentucky treats its basketball players.



  48. Pin The Tail on The Beezh
    12:20 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I would love to see a hockey team back in Kentucky! I had so much fun a T-blades games when I was little and I love going to UK Club and Preds games. And I agree with Ridge Runner, the comment sections will be so much better once the site becomes registered. It will get rid of the morons who feel the need to bash a well written article just because it did not suit them. I don’t understand why someone takes the time to read something they know they will not like and then critique the author.



  49. jpizzle
    1:16 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I would love to see the AHL return to Lexington! The Thoroughblades were a lot of fun. The Men O’ War (ECHL) not so much. We used to go to about 15-20 games a year, my wife and daughter loved it and they had no idea about the game at all. We even used to make at least one road trip a year to Cincinnatti to watch them play the Ducks. I’m a life time hockey fan even though I’m from Lexington and there were a lot of really good players in the AHL those years (including on the ‘Blades) that went on to make millions in the NHL and some like Boyle and Chara have done really well for themselves. Kiprusoff too. The big rival was always Hershey, man did we have some brawls with those guys. Best part of the AHL was every night every player was laying it all on the line because they were so close to making it to the NHL. Highly skilled players on every team literally fighting to make it. Good times. I have seen both Blackhawks and Predator home games since but I haven’t been to any games in about 5 or 6 years.



  50. Block Party
    4:36 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    I generally like Kristen’s writing, but I have to admit, I cringed when I read: “all of the sudden.”



  51. Both a UK and a Hockey Fan
    4:38 pm June 8, 2013 Permalink

    very well written article. I enjoyed it immensely and being someone who grew up with the sport, I can tell you that the cost involved to operate a minor pro hockey team is expensive. VERY EXPENSIVE. Another option to get your hockey fix is to operate a Junior program. the age range is 16-20 year olds who are skilled and being scouted by colleges and minor pro teams. The hockey is quite good and much more affordable than operating a minor league team. MUCH MORE affordable. I prefer minor pro but realistic money terms… Junior hockey may be an affordable option for Kentucky…