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The Greater Greensboro Observer
June 8, 2004

Ogi Overman Ogi Overman
Omnbus



A Farewell Party
"We're throwing a going-away party
A party for a friend of mine
It's just a sad going-away party
For a dream I'm telling goodbye"
- Bob Wills

Yep, it was fun while it lasted. But the cryptic handwriting that was already on the wall morphed into the King's English last week, the conclusion that had only been hinted at became foregone, the other shoe dropped. The Greensboro Generals hockey club is no more.

Oh, the formal announcement hasn't been made, and, yes, coliseum managing director Malt Brown still has a couple of days to pull another rabbit out of his hat, but the death knell has already been sounded. The unpleasant task fell to city manager Ed Kitchen, when he recommended at last Tuesday's City Council meeting that no more taxpayer funds be allocated to bail out the struggling franchise. The moment he decreed that the city had no business being in the hockey business, it was as if he was Buffalo Bob and the entire council was Howdy Doody - the heads all nodding in unison, as if being pulled by a single puppeteer's string. All but one -~ Mayor Keith Holliday's -who just doesn't have the heart to be the one who throws the last shovelful of dirt on professional hockey in the Gate City Bless his heart for that, but I'm afraid that all the mayor's horses and all the mayor's men can't put the Generals back together again.

All this would be easier if there were a culprit, if there were a villain or two, if we could pinpoint the reason for the team's demise and place blame on someone. But, as Dave Mason would say, "There ain't no good guy, there ain't no bad guy; it's only you and me and we just disagree." You (meaning the vast majority of citizens) don't give and hoot 'n' a holler about the sport and sure as H-E-double hockey sticks don't care to subsidize the franchise with your hard-earned cash, while me (meaning myself and about 5,000 other liberals and/or hardcore hockey fans) would be willing to kick in a few pennies (which is what it would come to) to keep the team and the sport that we love in the city that we love.

No, you can't fault Kitchen or the council, you can't fault Malt Brown or the coliseum, you can't fault the club's ownership or management, and you certainly can't fault the team itself. It's tempting to fault the Greensboro News & Record for both their scant coverage and their negative coverage, but that alone didn't kill the franchise - although at times it did look like they were trying.

The sad reality is that there simply is not a critical mass of hockey fans in this area. Just as there were not enough af2 fans to keep the Prowlers alive, and not enough soccer fans to keep the Dynamo alive (it's Neil Macpherson's money and passion that's keeping them afloat), and barely enough fans to keep the Bats in the black (although that will change next year with the new stadium). To quote my namesake, "If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them."

So, the Generals will slip quietly into that blue Canadian sunset and only a few will mourn their passing. We'll find other ways to fill our cold winter evenings, other diversions to keep us occupied, other ways to spend our discretionary income. Life will go on in Our Town, but for a small portion of us, there'll be a gaping hole in our soul to fill.

I'll miss them, I really will miss them. But most folks around here won't ever know what they missed.

And that's the real shame.