Bull Droppings 2: More News and Notes

With the announcement that the NHL lockout is over and the San Jose Sharks season will be in full swing a month from now, we can officially announce the Bay Area’s honeymoon with the San Francisco Bulls is over. Beginning with the Thirsty Thursday tilt against the Idaho Steamheads, the Bulls will no longer be the sole option for hockey fans in Nothern California. How severe will the drop-off in attendance be? My guess will be minimal, as hockey lovers continue to welcome a low-cost alternative to Team Teal. The homespun atmosphere, Cow Belle ice girls, and more accessible players are three assets unique to the Cow Palace inhabitants. For a fun night out that doesn’t break the bank you can’t go wrong with minor league hockey.

THE TORREY MITCHELL ERA BEGINS… THEN ABRUPTLY COMES TO AN END

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I was in attendance for the much-hyped debut of former San Jose Shark Torrey Mitchell, one of 2032 who attended the Wednesday night game. Mitchell scored the team’s first goal and the weekday crowd went wild. I was too busy shoveling 2-For-1 hot dogs into my gaping maw to stand up and cheer (see photo below) but you couldn’t have asked for a better start to a game.

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Unfortunately, the Bulls lost 2-1 in a shootout. The ECHL shootout goes 5 rounds, not 3, and had they adhered to NHL shootout rules the Bulls would have won the game. Alas, it was not to be. Goaltender Taylor Nelson is improving in leaps and bounds after taking over the reins from injured Thomas Heemskirk.

DEAN OUELLET HAS GREAT HOCKEY NAME, ALL-STAR CREDENTIALS

Forward Dean Ouellet has been scoring at a feverish clip for the SF Bulls (17 goals, 14 assists) and the ECHL league office has taken notice, making him a 2012 All-Star. Can a call-up to Worcester be far behind? It should be interesting to see how the Bulls deal with what will now be an ever-changing lineup with the major league players back to work.
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COW BELLES NOW HAVE OWN FACEBOOK FAN PAGE- AMERICA REJOICES
Unfairly maligned by (pure conjecture here) bitter post-menopausal women, the Cow Belles took this in stride and have been phenomenal ambassadors for the fledgling franchise. Easily dismissed as eye candy, these girls are impeccable skaters themselves and do a great job of keeping energy up during lulls in the game. Belle Annalysa performed admirably in an on-air interview during Comcast Home Network’s telecast of a game late last month (see stolen photo below). God bless professional hockey players, but most have the charisma of a piece of aged driftwood. A young, well-spoken and attractive promoter can be a godsend in a cluttered marketplace. Follow all things Cow Belle at their new Facebook fan page here: http://www.facebook.com/sfcowbelles
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Bulls, Fans Win!!!

A lot was riding on tonight’s game for the San Francisco Bulls. Losers of their inaugural game against the Bakersfield Condors, tonight’s rematch was the only remaining chance for a Bulls home victory before they head out on the road for the next three and a half weeks. Would they rise to the occasion? Would anyone show up after the sellout (tickets sold, plenty of empty seats) for the opener the night before?

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Either a grainy photograph of a Bulls goaltender warming up or indisputable proof of the existence of the legendary Cow Palace Wendigo.

The answer to the first question was a resounding yes. Despite incredibly shaky goaltending by starter Taylor Nelson, a plethora of goals propelled Team Toro to a 6-5 victory. A smattering of offensive wizardry by players whom I am not yet familiar with wowed the crowd. The highlight, however, was a spirited kill of a full two-minute five-on-three penalty after the Bulls were whistled for a minor while already on their heels defending a major infraction. The entire arena erupted into a spontaneous standing ovation to honor the boys’ effort.

The promotional giveaway of an orange cow bell was fun and I intend on bringing it to all future home games I attend. Much to my schaudenfreudelight (not a real word, but it should be), an enterprising middle-aged man was roving the stands attempting to sell an inferior black bell at 7 bucks a pop. To the man’s credit, his sardonic life-weary claim that “this is an item you’ll treasure for a lifetime” made me nearly spit up on myself laughing. But selling a $7 cowbell on cowbell giveaway night is an idea so ill-conceived it makes one question the man’s sanity. Or at the very least his grasp of the economic concept of supply and demand.

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First person to reference the Christopher Walken SNL skit gets a puck to the trachea.
There was a sharp drop-off in attendance. An announced crowd of approximately 3,600 was on hand to witness the team’s victory. Those in attendance were riveted for most of the game, unless that fancy new sound system is almost supernaturally adept at simulating crowd noise. A between-period trivia game of “Dead or Canadian?” was ghoulish and irreverent and hi-frikkin-larious! My jaw dropped (in a good way) that someone greenlit the idea. The suits at the Shark Tank have had their metaphorical panties in a twist ever since the genius idea of a pre-game jumbotron video showing Sharkie throwing an effigy of Eddie Belfour off the roof of San Jose Arena. I mean, how would Sharkie not know Belfour can’t fly? His nickname is, after all, “The Eagle.” Sharks in-game “entertainment” is cringe-inducingly lame and stuffy nowadays, and I for one am glad that the Bulls seem to have a sense of wicked humor about themselves.

Of course, these are merely the first impressions by a fan starving for hockey and feeling blessed that a new team came along when it did. These two blog posts are not meant to be propaganda or even necessarily promotional of the team. Merely snapshots in time from a blogger that wishes to inform Sharks fans, ECHL fans, and SF Bulls fans about the team and the quality of their on-and-off ice product in an entertaining way. That being said, The San Francisco Bulls are doing a lot of things right and I believe this will be quite a memorable season. Go Bulls!

A Great Night Out– No Bull. Sorry. Last Pun, I promise.

Being a passionate fan of the National Hockey League can often feel like being in an abusive relationship. Gary Bettman and the NHLPA know damn well that whenever they end their foolish lockout that the fans will be back. We always come back.

As puck season approaches, true hockey loyalists feel that familiar tug on their heartstrings. The void that only pucks of vulcanized rubber and grown men with nicknames like “Buster” and “Pickles” can fill. But thanks to Pat Curcio and the San Francisco Bulls, professional men’s ice hockey has returned to the Bay Area.

President. General Manager. Owner. Head Coach. (Usher? Bathroom attendant?) Mr. Curcio is obviously a man of many hats and passionate about this fledgling franchise. Will the Bulls be able to win over Sharks fans, and sports fans in general, in a market already rife with so many choices available for one’s sporting dollar?

The tentative answer is a resounding yes. ECHL hockey is two notches below the level of the NHL (think AA baseball) but the action is still fast and furious. From the first drop of the puck, both teams competed hard and there was plenty of action. The Bulls dropped the game 4-3 to the Bakersfield Condors (a team name so stupid I wince just typing it) but the crowd was cheering and into the game from start to finish.

The Bulls and Condors about to face off in the offensive zone. Photo courtesy of Sara Razavi, and by courtesy I mean I stole it off her Facebook wall.

The mascot Rawhide was a huge hit with both kids and adults. The much maligned idea (in the uber-progressive land of Northern California anyway) of ice girls, or in this case the Cow Belles, was adorable. Having spent years watching a portly middle-aged man with a thick mustache and mop of curly fry hair clean up the ice at San Jose Arena, seeing cute girls in perfectly appropriate attire performing the task quicker and more efficiently was a welcome change of pace. $14.25 will get you in the building and fairly premium seating is available for $26.

It was a near-perfect night out with friends. My father is going through hockey withdrawl himself, and during the second intermission I purchased us a pair of tickets to attend Saturday’s contest. I highly encourage you to do the same, if for no other reason than the Bulls will be on the road until mid-November thanks to the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock show taking over the Cow Palace for the next few weeks. HP Pavilion gets Lady Gaga, the Cow Palace gets teenage boys in bolo ties breeding goats. Still a few differences between the minors and “The Show”.

Though security rebuffed my attempts at interacting with the team’s cheerleaders the Cow Belles, I was able to get a picture with the Bulls’ mascot Rawhide. Not only that, he didn’t make nearly the fuss about my hand on his ass that the girls did.