Fort Worth Brahmas affected by new NHL CBA on and off the ice

FORT WORTH, Texas – The 2012-13 season has been a mixed bag so far for the Fort Worth Brahmas. It all started with a tumultuous off season. Then, once the team took to the ice they saw their fair share of ups and downs, and this trend will likely continue thanks to the end of the NHL lockout.
Brahmas fans were not even certain they would have a team until literally hours before the first pre-season game. The long and drawn out sale that kept fans in the dark on whether there would even be a season also kept them not knowing who would make up the roster, where the games would be played, and how much tickets would cost.

But after the conclusion of the sale, fans could breathe a little easier. Dan Wildfong was still coach, Brad Fogal returned in the crease, rumors of a trade involving Mr. Brahma Chad Woollard never came to fruition and several other key faces returned to mingle with the group of newcomers that included rookies and experienced players like Tomas Klempa.

As is typical in minor league hockey, the Brahmas’ roster saw some turnover in the early part of the season. Players who thought they had made the team out of camp found themselves on the outside looking in and Wildfong was forced to sign a few local players to fill spots on other nights in order to ice a full squad thanks to injuries.

Tomas Klempa

Tomas Klempa

Off the ice, it could be said that things were even more hectic for the Brahmas. They currently have an undersized staff wearing more hats than their titles would suggest.

Due to the incredibly late start and the staff seemingly spread too thin, lackluster seems a fitting term to describe the Brahmas’ marketing thus far this season. It’s been ineffective in getting fans out to the games despite the NHL lockout as evidenced by the team’s current average attendance of 1,636 through 21 home games. That includes five contests at the 11,200-seat Fort Worth Convention Center where the Brahmas have averaged 2,591.

Just when the team on the ice seemed to find their chemistry and click, the NHL lockout ended and four different players left the team for opportunities in the ECHL in a matter of four days: forward Matt Ambroz and defensemen Derrick Pallis, Erik Spady, and Joe Tolles. Ambroz wasn’t a huge loss as he only suited up in three games, but the loss of three defensemen threatened to cripple the team right before an important stretch of three games in three cities in three nights with two of those against the league-leading Allen Americans.

As Wildfong has done time and time again, he brought in solid mid-season additions with the return of Greg Eskedjian, calling up Cole Ruwe and Eric Tallent from the SPHL, and again signing one of the aforementioned local players in defenseman Daniel Barnes. Those additions have come in and helped prevent the team from skipping a beat as the Brahmas have won seven of their last nine games.

While things seem to be pointing up on the ice despite the turmoil the end of the NHL lockout initially caused, the same probably can’t be said for the off-ice aspect of the Brahmas. As Dallas Stars fans return to the American Airlines Center, Brahmas attendance could dip even lower and it’s pretty hard to revamp a marketing plan mid-season.

There does appear to be hope on the horizon as this new ownership and Managing Director Clyde Tuyl will have a chance to use a full off-season they were hoping for last year to mold the front office to what they want it to be.

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