Exhibition final chance for players to make squads
Sunday night's Central Hockey League exhibition game between the Tulsa Oilers and the Denver Cutthroats at United Wireless Arena will be one of the more hard-hitting battles on the ice despite the fact these two teams haven't met before.
The Oilers are one of two squads that have been in existence since the CHL reformed back in the late 1980s — the Wichita Thunder is the other — while the Cutthroats are an expansion squad as the league wanted to put a franchise in the Denver area as an alternative to the National Hockey League's Colorado Avalanche.
But it's not about the final score most of the players that will be concerned with at the end of the night; it will be if they earned a roster spot for either squad, so the atmosphere on the ice could be more in style of a playoff battle instead of a preseason contest.
The CHL is owned by Global Entertainment out of Arizona, the same company that helped get United Wireless Arena built. CHL director of operations Bob Hoffman said both teams wanted to have an extra exhibition contest and Dodge City was the perfect place to compete.
"Ever since the building went up there and overseeing the project, we've wanted to put a professional game in there in year one, but it was finished in the middle of the season," Hoffman said. "Now with the exhibition season going on, we felt this was the best time to put one in for them."
This contest will be the second exhibition hockey game at the facility, but will be much wilder. The Topeka Roadrunners sponsored a North American Hockey League junior level exhibition battle that had players from 16 to 20 years of age participating.
Hoffman said the level this time coming in Sunday will be equivalent to a low Triple-A level with professional hockey players, including some who have played in the NHL or in Europe.
"We have players who are 20 and above and even had guys who have gotten a cup of coffee in the National Hockey League," Hoffman said. "You're dealing with guys who are in a little bit different into their careers. With that, you're going to see guys who are a little bigger and faster, and the level of play should be better than what was seen the last time around with the junior teams."
Among the players from the Cutthroats include former Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey and Aaron McKenzie. The Cutthroats have also entered into an agreement that the Avalanche would supply some players to the minor league squad.
The Oilers will have players like David Beauregard who scored 39 goals in Europe last year, Hungarian native Deszo Roczanov, journeyman Ben Gordon and Gary Steffes, who scored 52 points for the squad last season.
There had been discussions about placing a league team here in Dodge City, but that's not the purpose for Sunday night's game.
"At this moment, it's a location that we've haven't gone too far into as far as looking to expand," Hoffman said. "But we are always keeping our eyes open and looking at different expansion markets and Dodge City certainly isn't out of our footprint, especially with teams in Wichita, Denver and Tulsa."