Hockey fans are hard to find and easy to please. They are as loyal as lapdogs, and as reliable as rent.
The question is not whether they will follow the Cincinnati Cyclones from the Gardens to the Coliseum, but whether they will follow the players home after the games.
''I'll say that 10 percent of the membership will be complaining about the move,'' said Rick Frklic, president of the Cincinnati Cyclones Fan Club. ''But they're still going to go. No. 1, we're hockey fans. We support the sport of hockey.''
When Cyclones owner Doug Kirchhofer decided to move his franchise from Roselawn to the riverfront, he didn't invest a lot of money on market research. There was no need. If the Cyclones were relocating to The Valley of Death, their fans would surely follow, and few would reason why.
More than 4,000 professional spectators attended the team's March open house at Riverfront Coliseum, which is a better turnout than some International Hockey League teams get for their games. Some of these people may not purchase season tickets, and all of them will not return to the building on a regular basis, but Kirchhofer's announced renovations should ensure the Cyclones' continued drawing power downtown.
Gardens owner Jerry Robinson says it is his building and not its prime tenant which is at the heart of the team's turnstile count. Personally, I think this is preposterous. The Cyclones have not drawn 2 million people in seven seasons because of a pile of bricks. I am not so sure, however, that Robinson can't bring a competing team to his arena and attract an audience.
A lot to watch
''Some people will go and see both,'' said Bob Nydick, of the Cincinnati Puck Pack. ''If it's an AHL team, some people like to see players on the way up. Myself, I'll have one (season) ticket with the Cyclones. On nights I'm free, I'll probably go to the Gardens and watch them play.''
Hockey fans, evidently, have a lot of time on their hands. ''Cleveland had a booster club for 10-12 years,'' Frklic observed, ''and they didn't have a team.''
This is a strange, obsessive species. The core of Cyclone attendance consists of families seeking inexpensive entertainment, but the serious fans are fanatical. Consider the discretionary hours of one William Keiser, a Cyclones fan and aspiring lyricist.
Last week, Keiser submitted a song to the Cyclones' web site. Titled ''Mr. Robinson,'' it is intended to be sung to the tune of Paul Simon's ''Mrs. Robinson.'' Three verses, in all.
The Gardens soon will be a place where no one ever goes.
Give the fixtures up to some museum.
It's a red brick elephant that few will want to use.
Looks a whole lot worse when read in The Hockey News.
Keeping 'em happy in 60
Saturday night's game against the Detroit Vipers marked the Cyclones' final regular-season appearance on Seymour Avenue, but it was not a night for nostalgia. Up in Section 60, behind the south goal, several fans showed up in cardboard crowns they had obtained at Burger King. They have been dressing this way ever since the Cyclones announced that they would move to the Coliseum and rename it The Crown.
''A lot of our people have bought jerseys with the number 60,'' Frklic said. ''Since it's a tradition, they're going to renumber the sections of the Coliseum so that Section 60 is still behind the goal.''
It's a small gesture, but it demonstrates how diligently the Cyclones work at humoring their customers. Nydick's fan club numbers merely 52 members, but Kirchhofer appeared at its monthly meeting last week to respond to their concerns.
He found that their concerns centered more on players than on places.
''We understand why he has to make the move,'' Nydick said. ''There were more questions about the personnel on the team than about the move itself.''
Hockey fans are easily led. They can be counted on to follow their hearts.