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There's two years left for Phantoms - now what?

2011-03-05T00:50:00Z 2011-03-05T01:17:13Z There's two years left for Phantoms - now what?By Tim McManus -- Commentary Glens Falls Post-Star
March 05, 2011 12:50 am  • 

GLENS FALLS -- They called the press conference for 5:30 on a Friday evening, generally an hour when bad news gets buried, but this was nothing of the sort.

It ended with people huddling around a telephone and shouting questions into a speaker until the mayor hastily ended the call.

The people on the dais may have outnumbered those in the crowd.

Anywhere else, it would've all added up to a strange event. But since when has anything been normal about Glens Falls' shotgun marriage with the Phantoms?

Once thought to be no more than a brief dalliance, the partnership extended by two guaranteed years Friday. The Phantoms will play here though the 2012-13 season, with an option for another.

The announcement came during a gathering at Heritage Hall that reflected the team's two-year relationship the city: at times awkward and as full of nervous hopefulness as a teenaged boy on prom night.

If there's one thing to take from this week's developments here and in Allentown, where an arena may be ready by 2013, it's this: the end is finally in sight.


Not because I want the Phantoms to leave. Just the opposite.

Having an ending in sight provides clarity. It's like the sitcom that goes on a few seasons too long then finds its stride again when the finale is booked.

It's easier to write the climax when you know what the final frame looks like. And no matter how much we wanted to fool ourselves, this was always ending with a moving van backed up to the Civic Center. There's just too much money to be made in the Lehigh Valley.

We can all stop looking over our shoulders and address the reality in front of us.

Allentown doesn't have to be a dirty word to be whispered anymore. The owners and fans alike can stop tap dancing around it. It's no longer in anyone's interest to continue the charade.

Say it: Allentown. Allentown. Allentown. Look, three times and the sky still hasn't fallen.

It's freeing.

Now we can take cold, hard stock of what we're dealing with and decide what we want to do about it.

The Phantoms' stay here may be halfway done. Another two years of similar attendance won't draw another American Hockey League team. Forget it.

If you've long warily regarded this team as a carpetbagger, if you can't support a franchise that won't be here for perpetuity, now's the time to cut bait. Just know that decision comes with consequences.

As John Paddock said on the night the Spectrum closed, "Things change and life and hockey go on." And make no mistake, it will go on without you somewhere else.

That's not a fair choice to present people: your money in turn for a future that isn't guaranteed even if 4,000 people a night show up. No one should fault those fans who decide that bargain's not for them, though they should have known from the start, the Phantoms were an opportunity, not a solution.

The onus isn't solely on them. The majority of the diehards fans will come to the final faceoff, no matter what they threaten.

Hockey's future will be decided in the vast middle ground, amongst the casual fans who want to jump on a winner's bandwagon and experience a quality, first-class night of entertainment.

That's where the responsibility shifts to the Brooks Group and their local staff.

The product on the ice is beyond their control, but they can and must do better to find and keep those casual fans.

The excuses are fading, especially now that city has come to the table next season with video boards, long hailed as the panacea for everything from connecting the players and fans to filling in revenue gaps.

The legacy of Rob and Jim Brooks in this town will always begin and end with the fact that they brought a team here when no one else would.

However altruistic their motivations - and don't let them fool you, they needed us as much as we needed them - they gave the city a chance few expected it to get.

How they make use of the time remaining will decide how fondly they're remembered.

The kind of AHL experience the fans here deserve, the kind that will ensure attendance climbs and the league stays long-term, can't be done on the cheap, and it can't be done with second-string talent.

This isn't Wheeling. This isn't the ECHL. Their club in West Virginia can't be a model for how things are run here. The expectations are higher.

The Brookses have talked the good talk about establishing a long-term model for the AHL. It's time to walk it.

Committing $50,000 to the fund for video boards next season was a strong and necessary step to show they're serious. Having Jim Brooks there to deliver the news in person Friday rather than as a disembodied voice over a speaker would have been a nice gesture, but it's hard to quibble with a man who just wrote such a large check.

There's three sides to this - the fans, the city and the ownership - and Friday's press conference was a call to arms.

Whatever happens next, it's in all of our hands.

Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at tmcmanus@poststar.com.

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