Thursday, December 23, 2010

When New Orleans and hockey meet

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 6:56 PM


As someone who grew up in Washington D.C., it's been a real treat the last two weeks getting a chance to see the Washington Capitals featured on HBO's critically acclaimed "24/7" series. Now, as someone who lives in New Orleans, it was an early Christmas present when I watched the second episode and noticed the clip above.

Listen to the music, it should sound familiar. That's because it's "Suburbia", one of the tracks on Trombone Shorty's new "Backatown" album. The soundtrack for the show is artfully done (you can check out a list of other songs used, though Shorty is somehow left out) and it's nice to see New Orleans music included in such a high-scale production.

At the same time, though, New Orleans and ... hockey? Jazz isn't exactly the first genre of music that comes to mind when you think about hockey. Just check out the bands listed on the soundtrack to hockey video games or look at the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawk's celebration music. And yet, Shorty's song plays very well with the shots of Canadians and Europeans flying around on frozen water and hitting each other.

The way "Suburbia" worked so successfully with hockey makes it hard not to reflect on New Orleans surprising history with hockey. Of course, there was the New Orleans Brass, the hockey-in-the-Big-Easy experiment that somehow lasted all of five years. Although, you have to admit the team had some pretty sick uniforms).

But if hockey on the bayou wasn't absurd enough on its face, Chris Rose recently wrote about Ray Nagin's role in all of this. To sum up: people who complain about New Orleans' notoriously awful storm-water drainage should take heart in the fact that the city has as many storm-drain cleaners as it does Zambonis (two). And, of course, it's Nagin's fault (he owned the team).

The Brass weren't alone in Louisiana, either. Seriously. Both Baton Rouge and Lafayette were homes to the Kingfish and IceGators, respectively. Leaving aside that "IceGator" may in fact be the most ridiculous mascot ever, just think about how, at one point in time, there as many professional hockey teams in Louisiana as there were professional baseball and football teams combined (the New Orleans Zephyrs, Saints and the Shreveport-Bossier Captains). Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Brass made the playoffs every season they played in New Orleans, giving them as many playoff appearances in the last 13 years as the Hornets and Saints combined.

Now, the Brass ended up failing in New Orleans not because it's ridiculous to have a hockey team in this city (after all, the team was an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks) but because they couldn't afford to take on the cost to convert the ice rink to a basketball court for every Hornets game as the NBA franchise prepared to move to the Big Easy.

The Brass, Kingfish and IceGators all folded and joined the ranks of the Mississippi SeaWolves and Pensacola Ice Pilots as failed hockey experiments in the Gulf South (though, to the Brass' credit, the team still has a Web site). New Orleans and hockey have since lived separate lives, even as HBO brought it back for a brief and exciting moment.

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