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Betting it all on ice hockey


“They’re young, hungry players trying to get noticed, trying to reach that next level,” said Dave Tippett at an open house Oct. 19 at the Iowa Events Center. The head coach of the National Hockey League’s Dallas Stars was talking about American Hockey League players, but the sentiment applies to Des Moines just as well.

We’re counting on the Wells Fargo Arena, in particular, to be a lively place on many nights for years to come after it opens in 2005. We want it to help us climb higher in the city image rankings.

But hockey is such a long shot.

Tippett could walk down Locust Street with skates over one shoulder, a hockey stick in his hand and a name tag on his shirt and no one would recognize him for who he is: a man who not only coaches in the NHL, but won an NCAA Division I championship when he played for the University of North Dakota and an Olympics silver medal with the Canadian national team.

We don’t know hockey.

And yet, the Des Moines Buccaneers have done great in their modest-sized home at the Metro Ice Sports Arena, so you can’t help but hope that hockey will grow even bigger here.

“This is a situation where you can have a team that turns into the town’s team,” Tippett said, and he’s right. But the Continental Basketball Association, Arena League football, even professional women’s basketball told themselves that same thing, and they all ended up cleaning out their lockers.

We want the Iowa Stars to become Des Moines stars. But what we really want is for that new facility to draw thousands of people on a regular basis and send them home happy. That’s not the same as preparing to fall in love with hockey.

Several suites remain unspoken for in the Wells Fargo Arena, priced from $40,500 to $68,500. Is it the civic duty of our biggest corporations to snap those up? Yes, it probably is.

As for the rest of the seats, anybody with any remote interest in hockey should give it a chance a year from now. Maybe we’re ready for something other than basketball to help us while away the long, dark winters.

It’s way too early to know how this experiment will turn out. This might not work.

But it sure would be great if it does.

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