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Sunday, June 18, 2000
Last modified at 6:04 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2000
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photo: sports

  The Lubbock Cotton Kings battled their way into the playoffs of the Western Professional Hockey League and consistently drew large crowds at Municipal Coliseum.
A-J file photo

Cotton Kings make impressive debut

For a sporting town that claimed to have seen everything, one sport made a very impressive debut in Lubbock in 1999-2000: professional hockey.

The Lubbock Cotton Kings competed in the Western Professional Hockey League for the first time in 1999-2000 and brought a fast-paced and (literally) cool alternative to sports fans from all over the South Plains.

Not only did the C-Kings compete, they competed well, making it to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the Austin Ice Bats in April. But the team gave its fans something to remember, in particular a high-scoring, offensive-minded brand of hockey that made the Cotton Kings the highest-scoring team in the league.

Head coach and former NHL player Alan May helped introduce Lubbock to hockey with the rushing style of play he learned in 10 seasons in the NHL.

Forwards Kyle Reeves and Doug McCarthy tied for third in the league in scoring, and three other Cotton Kings finished among the league's top 20 scorers. Defenseman Arturs Kupaks, voted the league's top defenseman, was third in the league in assists.

The flurry of goals also made the Cotton Kings the most popular team in the league among its fans. The Cotton Kings drew more than 200,000 fans to 36 home games at Municipal Coliseum, an average of more than 5,700 fans a game. Both figures were tops in the league. Many fans cited the reasonable ticket prices and fast-paced action as reasons for flocking to Municipal Coliseum.

While the games were high-scoring, the rough-and-tumble nature of the WPHL also appealed to the masses who filled "The Kingdom." Defenseman Ryan Shmyr, the team's enforcer, instantly became a crowd favorite while racking up a league-record 471 penalty minutes during the season.

The Cotton Kings hope to dispel the myth of the sophomore jinx when they start their second season in Lubbock in mid-October. A new coach, some new faces and some familiar ones look to keep the Cotton Kings at the top of the standings and the turnstiles spinning.

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