In an effort to put more fans in the seats, the Wichita Thunder scheduled two notable promotions for tonight's game — Ozzy Osbourne's Birthday Bash and Guaranteed Fight Night — but only one event made it past the planning stage.
Happy 61st, Prince of Darkness.
For the second time in six seasons, the Thunder publicized but ultimately failed to pull off a Guaranteed Fight Night.
Back in 2006, the Central Hockey League franchise tried the same promotion — an effort that then-general manager Chris Presson justified with one of the best Thunder quotes in recent memory: "Our fans, they love the blood and guts."
Perhaps, but the CHL, playing the role of wet blanket in the eyes of the Thunder, denied the fans their guaranteed gore.
On Wednesday, the league, again concerned about the promotion, contacted the Thunder office. By then, general manager Joel Lomurno had already decided to ice the idea. (It would have worked like this: If a fight between the Thunder and Colorado Eagles didn't occur, fans would have received a $2 ticket to a later game.)
"We're always looking for new promotions, and this is something we thought we might do," Lomurno said. "But it's obviously not something the league approves of, and we don't want to do anything that's inappropriate."
For the record, here's the CHL's stance: "The speed and skill of the players, along with other game operations sells our sport," commissioner Duane Lewis said. He added that fights occur "but that is not the primary focus of CHL hockey."
In any case, tonight's game — a matchup with the conference-leading Colorado Eagles — should sell itself.
Boasting some of the top talent in the league, Colorado enters the game 12-4-1. But the Thunder is playing perhaps its best hockey of the season — evidenced by a victory over Colorado on Saturday and a win against defending CHL champ Rapid City on Wednesday.
"We're competing with good hockey clubs, obviously," coach Kevin McClelland said. "We've still got to get better, but we're making strides. On most nights, we're playing a solid game defensively and creating a lot of opportunities. We're playing a well-rounded game right now."
Note — The Thunder waived veteran Brent Cullaton, who had been on team suspension, on Thursday. McClelland explained that, per the new collective bargaining rules, teams can only hold a player's rights for 45 days before they have to trade, waive or activate the player. Cullaton played the first two games with the Thunder. He is now coaching the Boulder Bison, a Tier III Junior A team in Superior, Colo. The team, which plays in the Western States Hockey League, is 14-4. McClelland hopes that Cullaton, who would have to clear waivers, will still play with the Thunder at some point.