What if I told you about a hockey franchise located in Dayton and isn’t the Bombers? Also, what if I told you about an arena where Wayne Gretzky first played professional hockey with the Indianapolis Racers? Add a magical stopwatch and freeze time, add a new color scheme after so many years gone and you have the Dayton Gems at Hara Arena.
From a team that started playing in 1964 and folded in 1980, to today’s team trying to fill a void of the loss of the Dayton Bombers, the Gems don’t lack history. Originally sporting a red/blue color scheme and a picture of a skater in front of a diamond, the Gems logo was upgraded with just a shining diamond with a blue and gold color scheme. Back then, athletes needed a second job to keep things afloat and helmets were a required wear (when the NHL didn’t even require them.)
Today’s Gems play in the main ice arena of Hara Arena, just like the old Gems did and the Bombers did before 1996. Dayton now plays in the Central Hockey League with seventeen other teams, including five from the Lone Star state. While the Gems are the team farthest East, the league is spread throughout the heart of America while stretching as far as Arizona, South Dakota, Texas, and Ohio. The CHL also absorbed the smaller International Hockey League, which had five teams remaining after Port Huron and Flint’s franchises folded after the past season. Hence, this is why the CHL stretches so far into the Midwest.
So, you might be asking, what’s new with the Gems? Why is it such an important topic in your blog? Well, here’s at least three things I could think of.
Number One: The Gems have asked the fans about new jerseys, and it looks like it’s taken a page out of Pittsburgh Penguins jersey history. These new jerseys have the new logos on both sleeves as well as the numbers, but the majority of the jersey is blue and red. The home jerseys are white and the road unis are black. On the home wear, there is a circle with “Dayton Gems” writing and in the middle is a blue and red gem. There is a big red stripe near the bottom, surrounded by two smaller light blue stripes. On the back, the name is in blue letters and the numbers in red. The black jerseys have the same stripes, but with an added thin white stripe on the outside. The script goes diagonal, spelling out Dayton (and the “o” is replaced with a gem).
To be honest, these jerseys do look very nice. I think it is an improvement to last year’s wear. It is a little sad to see the gold completely disappear, but the jerseys do work without it. Of course, this is my opinion as it looks on paper. How will it look on the ice?
Number Two: New opponents to tangle with. Like I previously mentioned, the Gems got absorbed into the much larger CHL. So there will be more opponents. Dayton was placed into the Northern Division, along with former IHL opponents Bloomington (Illinois), Fort Wayne, Quad City (based in Illinois, as well), and the Muskegon franchise now known as the Evansville IceMen. The Gems will also encounter teams from Colorado, Missouri, Rapid City, and Wichita in the North.
Number Three: New GM and Head Coach Brian Gratz looks to take the Gems to the next level. Gratz was a goalie for the ACHA Penn State team before becoming a backup goalie for several minor league teams. After his playing career was finished, he starting to get into the coaching world. Prior to taking the Gems job, he was the goalie coach for Penn State. Gratz takes the place of John Marks, who finished his only season as coach with a 25-46-4-1 record.
Will the Gems make Hara Arena shine like a smooth diamond or will the Gems finish in last place yet again? Opening night for Dayton is Saturday, October 16th versus Evansville. Until next post, folks.