About 600 hockey fans turned out for a news conference this afternoon to hear Cavs owner Dan Gilbert announce that the new Lake Erie Monsters
hockey team would call Quicken Loans Arena their home this fall. "Hockey's a great sport," says Gilbert. "It's great to see it come alive again. We're not only going to make it great hockey but fun, family entertainment. It should be one of the great teams in the AHL."
The AHL is the same league sporting teams with such weird names as the Ak-Sar-Ben
— spell "Nebraska" backward -- Knights of Omaha, the Marlies
of Toronto, and the Griffins
of Grand Rapids.
But to cool off some fans who've been waiting for a franchise in the NHL — of which the old Cleveland Barons were charter members in 1936 -- the Monsters will play a pivotal role as a farm team for the Colorado Avalanche
. Its vice-president and general manager, Francois Giguere, joined Gilbert on the dais to make the announcement. "This should become a very successful adventure. In the new world of the NHL, if we don't develop young hockey players, we won't succeed on the NHL level," says Giguere. "Cleveland has down-to-earth, hard workers, and amazing athletes. They'll become a fabric of the city."
There's no word yet on when the Monsters will drop their first puck, but we know this much: The team's logo is of a menacing blackbird half-submerged in the murky waters of Lake Erie; its jerseys will be wine-red with black-and-white trim on the arm sleeves; and ticket prices will range from $10 to $60, with season passes starting at a mere $210.
For the money, chances are pretty good that you'll be watching a few NHL-ready players, since 82 percent of AHLers eventually make it to the big show. "A lot of the players you see in Cleveland will go to the NHL," says Len Komoroski, president of the Cavs. "There's a pulse — a heartbeat — for hockey that's raging strong. And the timing has made it a great, new era to jump in." — Cris Glaser