The Dayton Gems Pt. 1
After the Dayton Bombers decided not to play this season, it looked like the city would be without a professional hockey team for the first time since 1991. The Bombers had varying degrees of success throughout their eighteen seasons, making it to the Kelly Cup Finals several times and to the playoffs thirteen of those eighteen years. Yet they always failed to draw a crowd large enough to fill The Nutter Center. Money woes associated with the inability to fill such a large venue eventually led to the owners turning control of the team back to the ECHL last June with no further plans to either play in Dayton, or relocate elsewhere at this time.
The winter in Dayton seemed like it was going to be a little colder this year; less jovial, less to do, less to help chase away the doldrums, and just one more reason to stay at home while the thermometer dipped below ten degrees again. That was of course, until a dedicated group of investors decided that they could not bear to see their city once again without a hockey team. They endeavored to bring back the once famous Dayton Gems, and after several months of planning, securing rights, and finding players, coaches, and staff for the team, it was announced they would be returning to their old stomping grounds at Hara Arena.
This first season for The Gems has not necessarily been an easy one. Money issues again appeared to threaten the team’s legitimacy, and they nearly folded after less than two months of play in the IHL. The league took control of the team in early December, and realizing the value of having Dayton in their line-up, quickly found an energetic group to take control of the team.
The community as a whole seems weary to embrace this new hockey team. Tired with high ticket prices and uninspiring crowds, Daytonians increasingly stopped going to Bombers games, and it seems that level of caution has carried over to The Gems. With the lowest average attendance in the league thus far, locals seem almost unaware of the team, and most seem willing to go with a “wait and see” attitude, unconvinced their tenure will last.
The Gems, on the other hand, have had little difficulty supporting their community. In the first four months of their operation, the Gems have spent more time collecting donations for charity groups, offering up their time for others, and making appearances at local events, than just about anyone reading this has done in the last year, myself included. This is not to say that they are more worthy of praise than others in Dayton who spend tireless hours trying to help out in their community. Yet thus far they have shown more support to us than we have to them. I do them no justice by simply listing what they have been apart of, but allow me to highlight their accomplishments thus far:
- Blade (the mascot) participated in a 5k walk for St. Jude’s research hospital.
- The team helped serve food at this year’s Feast for Giving at the convention center.
- Several team members participated in Literacy Night in Fairborn on Dec 17th.
- Collected donations for Toys for Tots.
- Collected over 400 teddy bears for sick children at Children’s Medical Center and Ronald McDonald house, and subsequently delivered them personally.
- Collected and donated over 2 tons of food for Foodbank, and delivered it.
- Collected $5000.00 in donations for the Red Cross Haiti relief fund.
- Regularly sponsor local school fundraisers.
- Participate in an educational outreach program by speaking with students and discussing goals, ambitions and being a part of the team.
They also make appearances in the community to help Dayton get to know their team better:
- They frequent Brixx Ice Co. for lunch to talk with fans.
- Appear as guest judges at The Fox and the Hound’s “Dayton Icon” contest every Monday at 9pm.
- Participated in the Bridal Fashion Show at Hara Arena as models.
Most recently, the team honored members of the United States Air Force during Wright-Patterson Night last weekend. The Gems wore commemorative Air Force camouflage jerseys that were auctioned to fans after the game, and donated the proceeds to The Air Force Aid Society.
This is a dedication to Dayton, a want to be a part of this community, and a desire to get all of us to know them better, to know our team, The Dayton Gems.
Still not convinced? Well, join us next week, we’ll talk about hockey in Dayton, the history of the Gems, how they are doing so far this year, Lefty McFadden, and plenty of other reasons to get up and go see a game. ($2.00 beers every Friday is a good reason, including this Friday!)
This Friday the Gems start at 7:30PM and take on the Flint Generals, and Saturday they take on the Port Huron Ice Hawks at 7:30PM, in a tribute game to Lefty McFadden.