The skates gave out on 4-year-old Brooks near center ice, and along with a handful of his Junior Mavs teammates, he briefly fell to his knees. After regaining his balance, he fell once more.
The skates were kinder on the next attempt, and before long, Brooks departed the Sprint Center ice rink — thus concluding a 10-minute youth hockey game during the first intermission of the St. Louis Blues-Washington Capitals exhibition Wednesday.
As he disappeared underneath a tunnel, Brooks was greeted by a Blues in-game media personality. He was asked to name his favorite player.
“The Capitals,” he responded, his answer broadcast on the Jumbotron.
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A couple of sentences later, the Blues reporter asked him to flip his allegiance and start a chant with the Kansas City crowd. Brooks obliged.
“Let’s go Blues,” he said.
Ah, if only they were all so easy.
On a night dubbed “Kansas City Blues Night,” the team stressed the opportunity to broaden its scope in Kansas City.
The Capitals defeated the Blues 4-2 in front of 11,781 fans at the Sprint Center.
As part of the marketing target, the Blues recently announced a “working agreement” with the Missouri Mavericks. The agreement features an option for the Blues to send players to the Mavericks, whose owner, Lamar Hunt Jr., has pinpointed the need for more youth hockey in Kansas City in order to drive up the game’s local popularity. The Blues hope to win the loyalty of the new players and garner new fan support throughout Kansas City.
In a matter of seconds, Brooks was sold.
What about others?
“I’m more of a Minnesota Wild fan, but I’m new to the game. I think if the Blues made more appearances here, I might (root for them),” said Derek Spresser of Olathe. “I know it’s probably not feasible for them to play in Kansas City in the regular season, but if something like that happened, that would help.”
A bevy of fans who spoke with The Star said they would prefer for Kansas City to land its own NHL team, though Hunt outlined a series of reasons why he doesn’t believe that is currently viable, calling it a “very distant dream.”
But for one night, Kansas City was home to an NHL game, and those who attended — certainly a biased group — say they believe it would work.
Dary McGowan, who has sold tickets for Kansas City events since 1978, said the market for Wednesday’s game was “great” and significantly better than what he expects for Saturday’s NBA exhibition game between the Miami Heat and Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Hockey has always done well here,” McGowan said.
He attributed that to minor league teams that have played in Kansas City. Steve Niner and his 18-year-old son, Alex, provided evidence.
Steve said they became better hockey fans when they started attending Mavericks games, and he wore a Mavericks jersey Wednesday. Alex has begun rooting for the Blues.
“I’m a Blues fan for good,” Alex said, before pausing. “But I would jump ship if Kansas City got a team.”