About JenniP

Hockey loving, beer drinking, teardrop camping adventurer from Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Checkers fall to San Antonio Rampage 5-2.

It’s been a rough week for Charlotte sports… The Checkers are in the midst of one of one of their longest losing streaks (and lost three games alone this weekend, including tonight). And the Panthers… well, let’s not talk about that.

The good news is regardless of the final score, Charlotte played a pretty good game tonight. Their defensive play was greatly improved (maybe the extra attention from Glen Wesley in Coach Morris’ absence is paying off). The team got a plethora of shots on goal (unfortunately, only two went in despite 11 power play opportunities).

Highlights of the game include:

  • A terrific performance by the Checkers defense (yes, despite allowing 4 goals (I’m not counting the empty netter).
  • MacIntyre had a strong third period in relief of Altshuller.
  • The Checkers had a lot of energy and hustle. There is a lot of hockey left this season, and the good guys are still locked in a strong playoff position.
  • Ice is slippery. On two occasions Rampage players ran into each other and crashed to the ice. The second crash involved San Antonio’s goaltender who was taken out after the whistle blew by his own teammate. It was gif worthy, and the Checkers responded with an amusing gif of the crash and burn.
  • Coach Geordie Kinnear did a great job filling in for Mark Morris, who missed his second straight game to injury. It was great seeing Glen Wesley fill in as an assistant coach and mentoring Charlotte’s young defensemen.

 

 

 

 

Sorry for the brevity of this post. It’s been one hell of a month for me. Work is insane. (Shameless plug: Come see Innovative Works at Charlotte Ballet… it got a rave review here: Usually I’m the writer. I’m not used to being written about… ).

I also realized that today is the sixth anniversary of Chasing Checkers. Wow. Six years!

 

I’m really excited about watching the good guys finish the season strong.

Checkers score a touchdown against Chicago, defeat Wolves 6-5.

Early on in tonight’s matchup, it would have been easy to count the Checkers out. They had allowed the first two shots of the game, and were down 2-0 only 1:40 into the contest. The home team rallied, again and again, and after yo-yoing between being a goal behind and tied, they finally took the lead with 6:31 to go in the game with an even strength goal by Zach Boychuk.

Coach Morris recognized the team’s ability to bounce back.

“We showed some resilience, and I thought that it looked pretty dire at the start of the game,” Morris continued, “Guys just stuck with it, so, we’ll take it. They’re not all gonna be pretty. And hopefully we learned some things along the way.”

Four power play goals led to the Checkers victory at home against Chicago.

Drew MacIntyre made his first appearance for the Checkers since December 15. He was injured over the Christmas break while playing for Team Canada at the Spengler Cup in Switzerland. Having missed the past month of Checkers play, it was no surprise he was a bit shaky on the start, but his teammates rallied around him to score six goals and win the game.

Coach Morris was complimentary of MacIntyre’s play despite the shaky start.

“He had a rough outing. That’s not the typical Mac game. He’s coming off an injury…. So we’ve got to cut him some slack. He made some big saves.” Morris continued, “It’s not an easy position to play, especially when you’ve been out so long.”

The Checkers are in a tight race for the playoffs, in a tough central division. The Wolves, who are division rivals, are lower in the standings but still a crucial matchup.

Brendan Woods, who was the game’s first star with two goals, recognized the importance of a strong showing against the Chicago Wolves.

“We have a board up in our room. Right when you walk in you see it,” Woods continued, “It’s really tight when you look at the standings. You can’t take any nights off with the division we have. It’s all really close, so any chance you have with a team coming in your building, in your division, it’s huge.”

Coach Morris also commented on the importance of a strong showing against division rival Chicago.

“They have no problem scoring goals against us. I thought we’d need a touchdown after the first two shots.”

The Checkers sit solidly in a playoff spot, but with over a third of the season to play, the team must continue to win games and pick up points in the standings. Since December 9, they’ve shown they know how to win.

After a 12 game point streak that took them through most of December and into January, and have points again in the past five starts.

Checkers flattened by Iowa Wild in OT.o

Though the Checkers record against the Iowa Wild this season is 4-0-1, the victories haven’t come easily. Two shoot out wins, and two regulation wins, the most recent of which was a six goal rally in the third after starting the period with a 3-1 deficit, were the precursors to tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss by the Charlotte Checkers at home.

Charlotte’s Coach Mark Morris was disappointed at the team’s effort level.

“I thought we were flat from the get go. I didn’t like our game at all. I thought our energy was low,” Morris said, “We had a lot of passengers.”

The home team got into penalty trouble early, with the first of six visits to the sin bin just three minutes into the game. Midway through the first period, the Checkers former captain, Michal Jordan, scored a shorthanded goal while teammate Brock McGinn sat in the box for a slashing penalty.

Rasmus Rissanen, who has missed nearly half of the season due to injury and is only three games back onto the roster, scored the second goal of the game from the point. It was his first goal of the season.

Four goals were scored in the third period, but only one of them was by the good guys, an even strength goal by Brock McGinn. Iowas’s Cristoph Bertschy scored first for the Wild, and Jordan Schroder scored two for his team, including the game tying goal that led to overtime.

Checkers Captain Derek Ryan, who had two assists in the game and shared the ice with two former Checkers captains, Michal Jordan and Brett Sutter of the Wild, spoke candidly about the Checkers record against Iowa this season, and the differences between Charlotte’s victories against them and tonight’s loss.

“The biggest difference between previous games and this one is that we’ve never quit. They’ve gotten some leads on us, and we’ve found ways to win, which good teams do,” Ryan continues, “Tonight it was almost the opposite where we were giving up a lead and not playing our best hockey for most of the whole 60 minutes.”

Michal Jordan, who is the Checkers former captain and made his first appearance in a Checkers sweater since February 19 of last season, said this year’s squad is one of the best Checkers team he’s been a part of.

“They have lots of good young players and great veteran guys…. It’s a great group and they should be real successful this year.”

Coach Morris said a lack of effort from Charlotte led to the Iowa victory.

“They deserved the win because they worked harder than we did.”

The Checkers face the Iowa Wild again on Thursday night at Bojangles Coliseum. Hopefully, the home team will have a better showing.

 

 

 

 

And now for a poll:

 

Brock McGinn, who is tied for the goal scoring lead with 10 this year, needs a hashtag, one as awesome as #Terryiffic, #Shuggernaut and #MACnificent.  Here are the nominations. What’s your pick?

 

  • #BROCKtacular
  • #OopsHeDidItMcGinn
  • #Brockalicious
  • #McGinneriffic

 

 

 

#MACnificent Checkers make it two in a row against Iowa.

After less than 24 hours since their dramatic comeback game against the Iowa Wild, the Checkers were able to defeat the visitors once again in a 2-1 shootout win.

The first period was a bit sluggish for both teams with few SOG and lots of dump-and-chase style hockey.

The second period brought the first point on the board, a power play goal from the point from Ryan Murphy, who made his second appearance with the Checkers this season after starting the year with the Carolina Hurricanes

The Wild rallied back early in the third period, tying the game with a breakaway goal from Zack Mitchell.

Charlotte’s Drew MacIntyre made glorious save after save, stopping all but one of the shots he faced, including every shot in the shootout. This was his second appearance between the pipes in as many goals, after coming into the game last night in relief of Rasmus Tirronen.

The overtime period, which is a shortened from last season five minutes of sudden-death three-on-three overtime, was filled with lots of back and forth play and two penalties, one for each team.

Ultimately, the winner came down to the shootout with the Checkers scoring two goals (Justin Shugg and Derek Ryan) and coming away with the win.

 

The number one star was clearly the Checkers Drew MacIntyre, even before he made all of the saves in OT and the shootout. After struggling with consistency early in the season, MacIntyre is building on each save and each win to put himself back on top.

“It’s been a frustrating season, to be honest. It’s been really frustrating,” MacIntyre said, “It’s nice to get this weekend. I haven’t been able to get in the groove. I have a good game and then the next game takes away from that…. My playing time has gone down and I’m not happy when that happens. I want to get back in the net and I want to show that I can do it consistently like I have my whole career.”

The Checkers return to home ice next Saturday and Sunday against the Ontario Reign, the Los Angeles Kings AHL team who, as the Manchester Monarchs, won last year’s Calder Cup.

Comeback Checkers: Charlotte overcomes a 4-1 deficit with six unanswered goals to defeat Iowa Wild 7-4

For the second time in a week, the Charlotte Checkers became the comeback kids, overcoming a 4-1 deficit at the end of the second intermission win by a score of 7-4 over the Iowa Wild.

Coach Mark Morris spoke candidly about the lack of effort from the home team during the first two periods of play.

“Our execution was less than stellar,” Morris stated, “and again, we didn’t start the game with the kind of focus we need to really be on top of our game.”

After the first period, when the home team came out flat and allowed three goals, Drew MacIntyre replaced rookie Rasmus Tirronen, who faced 15 shots in the first period, which was almost twice what Mac faced in the remaining 40 minutes of play.

The Checkers looked slightly better in the second period, with MacIntyre allowing one goal and the Checkers scoring one as well, but there was still a lot of work to do.

Midway through the game, Brendan Woods tried to get former Checkers captain Brett Sutter to drop the gloves, but Brett was having none of it. Instead, Wild left wing Kellan Lain stepped in and defeated Woods quickly, with both players going to the box for a cool down.

Charlotte Checkers Captain Derek Ryan commented honestly about the lack of effort at the beginning of the game, and what Coach said to inspire the comeback.

“Well he didn’t really come in and yell at us. He’s done that before and probably is tired of doing that…. I think his message is just we’ve got to start figuring stuff out on our own…. We’re super inconsistent right now… I’m not sure what it is.”

After a 16-game drought that was broken only four days ago on Tuesday, Zach Boychuk scored his second goal in three games, an unassisted shot that found the back of the net one minute into the third period, and the first of six unanswered goals that led to the Checkers phenomenal comeback.

“It’s great. The leadership that we have in this room and the determination to come back. We’ve done it quite a few times this year…” Boychuk continued, “Hopefully next game we can come out with a little better start.”

Coach Mark Morris talked to the team after the first two periods of play, and what was said turned the effort and energy around, leading to an epic comeback.

“I told the guys, I said listen,” Morris said, “we’ve come back from 4-1 against these guys in the past and I’m not counting us out.

With a 7-4 win over the Iowa Wild, Coach was right. Never count out the Charlotte Checkers.

 

 

Checkers win! McGinn and Boychuk help Charlotte defeat San Jose Barracuda.

In a game where the Checkers were outshot by the visiting San Jose Barracuda 29-19, the home team was victorious. The highlights are plentiful. Zach Boychuk scored his first goal since March 22 of last season in Iowa. The 16 game drought is the longest in his career, and a true anomaly for the Checkers all-time leading goal scorer.

 

The last five minutes of the first period were action packed, with three goals scored by the Checkers in quick succession. Brock McGinn scored his first goal since returning to the Checkers roster from a stint in the NHL, and then a few minutes later, scored a second. Zach Boychuk scored the second goal of the game, and the eventual game-winner with 1:41 to go in the first period.

 

After the first period, the goal horn (which, by the way, is one of the best goal horns I’ve heard… it really is the perfect tone and timbre and is far superior to the noise we heard at TWCA!) was silent for the home team. With less than 14 seconds to go in the game, the Barracuda robbed Rasmus Tirronen of what could have been his first professional shutout. Tirronen, who the Hurricanes signed last spring to a one-year contract, has only six professional games to his credit, but continues to make great impressions with his confidence and skill. Tonight’s win was his first back-to-back start of the season, and his first (of hopefully many) back-to-back wins with the Checkers.

 

The game and post-game interviews left a lot of impressions on me.

First of all, Coach Morris seems to be exactly what this team needs. He’s a development coach in the truest sense of the word. He appears to be an excellent judge of skills and character, and has the ability to shape and groom good young players into excellent ones. I heard it in his analysis of the game and his athletes, and was impressed by his candid honesty about the players strengths and weaknesses. Here’s what he said about Zach Boychuk and whether the end of his scoring drought would lead to more goals:

“I sure hope so. He’s starting to throw his weight around and create space for himself. I’ve encouraged him to shoot more pucks and nobody’s going to ever condemn a guy for shooting the puck,” Coach Mark Morris continued, “He’s certainly a skilled guy but I think the more he gets involved and gets his juices flowing, the better he’s going to be and he’s going to play with more jump in his step.”

Zach Boychuk seemed (obviously) relieved to have the scoring jinx off his back, and has a realistic idea of what to expect tomorrow night when the Checkers face San Jose again:

“Staying engaged…. Sometimes it’s tough playing the same team in back-to-back nights. Sometimes you don’t come out as hard,” Boychuk continues, “[We’ve got to] come out hard. Hopefully we can keep this streak going.”

 

Boychuk on tonight’s game and continuing the momentum:

“We came out hard in the first period and kind of weathered the storm a little bit and put them on their heels. Once we were up three-nothing I feel like the ref was calling some penalties on us and we weren’t getting any of the breaks,” Boychuck says, “We’ve got to stay on the gas pedal a little more and we’ll try and focus on that tomorrow.”

 

You can stop reading now if you’re only interested in the game coverage… because from here on it’s purely editorial!

 

 

As I mentioned on Twitter before the game, tonight was the first time I got to see a game from start-to-finish at Bojangles Coliseum. A big promotion at work means I have even less evenings free, so it was a luxury to see a game on home ice. Charlotte is so lucky to have an amazing, historic rink like we do with so many great amenities. Sure, there’s no WiFi (though, it was just as bad at TWCA) and there aren’t any theatrical lighting effects (I’m a lighting designer by trade… I have to complain about the lack of special lights!) the things that actually matter are top notch. While the LED lights provide great coverage of the playing surface, and are a really nice, warm color temperature, it always seems dark right under the video board and I wish that could be fixed.

 

 

Some of my critiques are so minor I feel bad even mentioning them. Most are out of the control of the organization anyway, so there’s even less of a point talking about it…

  • The only thing I miss about TWCA is I had a place to sit, out of the way in the corner, but with enough space to set up my laptop and take notes. BoCo is a bit cramped, and that’s annoying, but I made do and got to see the game from a number of vantage points throughout the night.
  • I really hope the built-in ice system is fixed next off-season. The tank ice set up and the sub floor around the ice surface is annoying, mostly because I almost tripped walking up and down them tonight. Fingers are crossed whatever leak exists can be easily fixed.
  • I found some of the ribbon boards distracting, and lacking crucial information… like when both teams had a player in the box, there was no distinction between who was who. Such a minor, silly complaint, really!

The great stuff, because I’d like to end on a high note:

  • There’s an organ!!!!! (more organ music and less jock jams, please!).
  • There’s a goal horn that has serenaded championships and hockey games for the past 60 years. And it sounds amazing.
  • Sightlines! Awesome! There isn’t a bad seat in the house… and there were a LOT of bad seats uptown at TWCA.
  • The rink is less than two miles from my house, and my neighborhood sports bar where I watch so many NHL games is advertised on the boards. So meet me at Steamers, y’all. Their Wednesday night drink special is one of the best in the city!
  • Most of all, what I love about the “new” arena is there’s a hockey organization at home there that has embraced the history of the sport in Charlotte and all of the Checkers different incarnations, as evidenced by the amazing intro video and love of history. Charlotte is so lucky to have this team, and this organization.

It was a great first night for me… and I can’t wait to see many, many more wins at BoCo this season and beyond!

 

Bojangles Coliseum: A sneak peak where #CheckersComeHome

Today I had the privilege of checking out the new and amazing Bojangles Coliseum. Wow. It has charm, character, and sightlines that can’t be beat, and all of the amenities a larger NBA arena might have. Checkers fans are going to have one of the best rinks in the AHL this season, and one of the oldest arenas in the league. The Toronto Marlies’ Ricoh Coliseum was built in 1921, but most other AHL arenas were built in the 1980’s and 1990’s.


A panorama from the middle aisle of section 108.

A panorama from the middle aisle of section 108.

Bojangles Coliseum is a unique and amazing 60 year-old building. It’s the first place I ever saw a professional hockey game, and the birthplace of professional hockey in the south, so sentimentally, I’d say it’s pretty special.

High at the end of the ice

High at the end of the ice

I’d stopped by to watch practice, but found myself too distracted by checking out the upgrades to focus on the skating, so instead I wandered around the seating bowl, walking to the top of all of the sections and choosing seats to sit in. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Honestly, the higher up I got, the more I liked the view because of how well I could see formations and plays being created on the ice.

Almost as high as the rafters, and still an amazing view.

Almost as high as the rafters, and still an amazing view.

As I sat in about a dozen different locations, I continued to be filled with excitement for the upcoming home opener, and the historic venue coming to life again.

Observations and educational tid bits I learned today:

  • The seats are comfortable! I was sad they were plastic and not wood, but they feel great, even without padding like TWCA had.
  • The lighting is fantastic. It’s all LED, but it’s not a gross, harsh cold LED light. The color temperature was relatively warm and appealing (and now I will step down off my lighting designer soap box).
  • There honestly is NOT a bad seat in the house. I sat low and high on the sides, the corners, the end of the ice… it’s all a great view!
  • According to a handout the CRVA gave me, the Checkers plan to use the Hammond B2 organ that is original to the building. How awesome is that??!?!??!? I love organ music at a hockey game (it’s so much better than the awful “Jock Jams” stuff we hear so much of).
  • The roof of Bojangles Coliseum is made of tin. I guess I should have known that with its beautiful silver sheen, but that makes me love it even more. Nothing like a tin roof in the South, y’all!
I love the color of the ceiling, and how much brighter the arena is with new LED lighting!

I love the color of the ceiling, and how much brighter the arena is with new LED lighting!

By the numbers : Counting down to November 7

I realize the AHL season started two weeks ago, but without a completed arena and the team being on the road the first month of the season, and having two full time jobs at the moment, it’s been easy for me to distance myself from the day-to-day happenings of the hockey season.

But every day when I drive by Bojangles coliseum and see construction activity, or late at night when they forget to turn off the neon lights on the concourse, I get more anxious and excited about the Checkers playing in my city again.

There are so many reasons Checkers fans have to be excited about the 2015-16 season, but a few in particular stick out at me. So without further ado…

3-0 – The Checkers three game winning streak they started the season. OK, so they lost their second game last weekend and again last night, but 3-0 is outstanding, and something to be proud of. This lineup has the potential to go far this season.

5 – Trevor Carrick, who wears number five was one of the biggest standouts last season as a rookie on a young team that struggled a lot in the win column. As a second year pro, I’m expecting great things from Mr. Carrick, and with five games under his belt and six points (3g, 3a), he’s on the right track.

2700 – The address of Bojangles Coliseum on E. Independence Blvd. This is going to be my favorite place to visit starting in November! The Checkers new(old) home is going to be filled with craft beer options, outstanding local food selections and best and most of all, the Checkers hockey team. And I can ride my bike to the arena, which is kind of amazing.

22 – Drew MacIntyre, the Checkers most excellent goaltender, is wearing my favorite number in hockey to honor his late uncle. – He was the first big off-season signing by the Carolina Hurricanes for the Charlotte Checkers, and will certainly prove to be the most important. MACnificent is one of the most skilled goaltenders in the AHL, and his experience in net will continue to benefit a young Checkers team (though, thankfully, not as young as last year’s squad).

6 – It’s the Checkers sixth AHL season in Charlotte, and I’m positive it’s going to be an outstanding one. With a new rink, new coach and an incredible roster the future is bright for the home team!

16 – Days until the #CheckersComeHome and start their season off right in Charlotte at the newly remodeled Bojangles Coliseum. November 7 is going to be a historic night!

341 – Mark Morris – This coach is the real deal. His coaching record in the AHL and NCAA levels speaks for itself, and won his 341st AHL game with the Checkers last weekend in Milwaukee. He’s a true development coach, and one who has helped players move on to Stanley Cup championships. What he has the potential to do in Charlotte and the Hurricanes organization is extraordinary. It might not come overnight, but change and growth is coming, and it’s going to be exciting to watch.

27 – Jake Cheelios, a second year pro in his first season with Charlotte, is someone to keep an eye one. After a four year career at Michigan State (go Spartans!) he had a strong rookie performance with the Chicago Wolves last season. He’s an offensively minded defenseman, and in his first three appearances with Charlotte, he has five points (1g, 4a).

28 – Phil DiGiuseppe is another second year pro, and in his first five games has seven points (3g, 4a). And he has 20 SOG. After a season last year where the team at times seems afraid of shooting the puck, it’s refreshing to see a more offensively minded team.

1956 – The year the Checkers (then named the Clippers, of the defunct Eastern Hockey League) first played at what is now called Bojangles Coliseum. Almost 60 years later, it’s going to be exciting to see a new, faster Checkers team take on their opponents in the arena that held the first professional hockey in the south.

By the numbers: Charlotte Checkers 2015-16 schedule

The 2015-16 AHL schedule has finally been released, and here’s the annual Chasing Checkers analysis of it, in a “by the numbers” format.

Editor’s Note: Some of the following numbers come with a healthy dose of sarcasm, but let me assure you, the Checkers schedule is WAY better than some. One California team I analyzed is facing only eight opponents, and only two teams outside of their own division. I’d much rather see 13 opponents and no eastern conference teams than the same six squads over and over again California teams appear to be playing each other 12 times each! Be grateful, Checkers fans. I am!

For a .pdf version of the schedule, head to GoCheckers.com

0 – The number of times Charlotte will face Oklahoma City and Norfolk this year. Previously, the Checkers played nearly one-third of their games against franchises in those two cities, but both moved to California for the 2015 season. I can’t believe there’s #Norfolkingway Charlotte will ever play in Virginia this season…. But I won’t miss those clown barf uniforms!

0 – The number of games the Checkers will play against Eastern Conference Teams, despite being further east than many teams in that conference.

1 – Month in the AHL schedule without a home game for the Checkers. Charlotte will have 10 road games during that time, in a row, facing Iowa, Milwaukee, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Rockford and Lake Erie.

2 – The number of three-in-threes the Checkers will face. Both instances are on the road and feature Grand Rapids/Chicago and Milwaukee/Rockford. This is an all-time-low. Last season, Charlotte had three. In 2013-14, five, and way back in 2012-13, the Checkers had seven three-in-threes

3 – The number of new California teams the Checkers will face this season. Ontario, San Jose and San Diego all made the cut.

3 – Number of eastern conference teams closer to Charlotte than any team in their own Central division (Hershey, Wilkes-Barre and Allentown)

4 – The number of home and away games the Checkers will play against the San Diego Gulls, or how many wagers on who’s team will come out victorius that Chasing Checkers will make against former Checkers staffer Nate Beasley

4 – The number of times we get to hear Oh! Canada at Bojangles Coliseum, when the Manitoba Moose come to Charlotte. (November 7&8 and January 16&17 for those of you keeping track!)

4 – The number of different divisions the Checkers have played in since coming to Charlotte in 2010. Only when they played with a bunch of teams in Texas did the Checkers have largely the same division-mates for more than one season. This seasons “Central” division includes teams in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Iowa, two teams in Illinois, one in Wisconsin, one in Michigan, one in Ohio and of course North Carolina. Based on this not-so-central grouping of teams, I propose the league rename it the “midwest and leftovers” division.

6 – The number of away games Charlotte will play in their own Eastern time zone

6 – Also the number of games the Checkers will play in the Pacific time zone, AKA three hours later than Charlotte is.

6 – The Checkers longest home stand in games, or about two weeks. This will occur five times this season.

10 – The Checkers longest road trip, which will stretch out for the entire first month of the AHL season.

12– The number of different teams the Checkers will face during the 2015-16 season. This is down from 2013-14 and 2014-15 when Charlotte had 13 different opponents.

24 – The number of games the Checkers will have in the Central time zone, which fortunately, is only one hour later.

38 – The number of opportunities to see the Checkers at the amazing and newly renovated Bojangles Coliseum.

56 – The number of games Charlotte will play against Central Division Rivals (exactly eight games per team)

68 – The number of games the new California teams will play during the course of their (shortened) AHL season

76 – The number of games the Checkers (and the majority of the AHL) play during the seven-month season.

515 – The low, low number of miles to the Checkers closest division rival, the Lake Erie Monsters. (And in tanks of gas, one each way thanks to Chasing Checkers awesome new car!)

1673 – Miles to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Home of new division rivals THE Moose (and a lot of moose).

2675 – The number of miles if you wanted to drive to see the Checkers play in San Jose, California.

But the very most important number:

71 – Days until the Checkers home opener against Manitoba!!!!!

A NY and PA roadtrip – six AHL cities in six hours

FullSizeRender (2)I spent the past two and a half months in Western New York, working at the Chautauqua Institution as a lighting designer for Charlotte Ballet, who has a summer residency there. At the conclusion of our summer season, I took a week long camping trip in upstate NY and Vermont, exploring the sights and sites of the Finger Lakes and the Adirondack and Green Mountains, and tasting as much of the craft beer as I possibly could.

FullSizeRender (3)
In a six hour drive across I-90, I passed through five AHL cities (Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany and Glen Falls). I also could have gotten to a couple other cities had I taken a different route. To say that region of the country is saturated with AHL teams is a major understatement.

Then, after a few days in Vermont and Montreal, I headed south again, this time via I-81, a path that found me in even more AHL cities. I started in Syracuse, then passed through Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey…. Four cities in under four hours. After I drove through Hershey, it was another eight hours before I reached an AHL city, my own hometown of Charlotte.

IMG_3293Eight hours is hardly “driving distance” for a team that travels to 36 away games each season, but for the Checkers, that’s the minimum it would take to visit another city on a bus. The new California teams, however, are within eight hours of each other. As in… the farthest north and farthest south teams can drive to each other in eight hours and pass through the other cities along the way. So each California team has four rivals in an eight hour or less distance, but because travel is going to be so hard for them, the AHL granted them less games in a season so they would have more time to practice.

FullSizeRender (1)I don’t understand. St. John’s, Winnipeg and Charlotte don’t have another team within eight hours of them, but they all manage. Texas and San Antonio are on their own little island with no other teams in driving distance. Five teams choose to move to California, and they demand the AHL shorten their season because the travel is “so hard” for them.

It doesn’t make sense. At all. But I guess when five teams bully the AHL, they can get what they want. It’s too bad the other 25 teams didn’t have the same weight to say “a shorter season isn’t fair for us.”

I don’t want to see Charlotte’s season shortened. I don’t think the organization wants to lose ticket and sponsorship revenue. I know fans don’t want to lose the opportunity to see their team as many times as possible. What I want is to see parity among all of the AHL teams, and them to have similar season schedules.

The travel might be a challenge for the Checkers this year, but they will manage like they always have in the numerous divisions they’ve played in and have a team in Winnipeg, Manitoba in their division, and five new California teams in their conference. With a new coach, and great signings made by Carolina and Charlotte, the future is bright for the home team.

Opening night is just over two months away… is it too soon to start a daily countdown? I wish the AHL schedule would be released already!

#LetsGoCheckers