Sometimes, I just have to let it all out there. So instead of printing quotes, recaps and photographs from last night’s game, I figured I’d share something a bit different, and maybe a bit personal. There’s a lot of frustration out there these days for hockey fans. There seems to be no end in sight to the NHL lockout that has owners and players unwilling to negotiate and instead are sacrificing the fans all across this continent, and here in Charlotte, we’ve got a local team that can’t figure out how to get into the win column at home.
As I sat down in my usual seat last night, and saw the team skate out in those black jerseys, I felt my first seeds of doubt. I know it’s just superstition, and I’d LOVE to get behind the sweaters, because they are really slick, and look incredible on the ice, but I don’t like them. I can’t remember the last time the home team won in them, so yes, I cringed. The game was much as the other’s I’ve seen in the past week or so. The team came out strong, struggled in the second, thanks in part to a questionable goaltender interference call on Jerome Samson, and then came back in the third period with renewed intensity, but it was too little too late, and the Checkers fell again, this time to the Lake Erie Monsters of Cleveland.
After the game as I listened to Coach Jeff Daniels and a couple of players speak to the media, I was actually pretty inspired. I’m a fan of the Charlotte Checkers, just like all of you who follow this site. But despite my passion for the team, there are definitely times that I feel pretty down in the dumps over them. Times when I feel like the cards are stacked against the team I follow so closely, and when I can almost understand why the people in the seats around me decided to leave the game early since it seemed that yet again, the home team was going to end up in the loss column. A five game losing streak, the longest in the history of the team, is a time that certainly can encourage a bit of hopelessness in the fans and the team itself. But for me, for the first time, I actually believed what the guys were saying as they recounted their descriptions of what had happened during the game, and more importantly, the big picture surrounding the team and the current slump.
You have to understand, post-game interviews are filled with clichés. Sure, the responses are true and honest statements from players and coaching staff, but they aren’t usually deep and introspective, and rarely have a great deal of passion unless you are really lucky. There are a lot of answers that are pretty generic, and you could probably make a drinking game out of the word “effort” and how many times it is used in a response to a reporter.
Last night, there was a fire in Justin Peters that I hadn’t ever seen before. He was intense, his eyes piercing as he looked back at the small gathering of reporters gathered to hear what he had to say. He was passionate, and if he can give a speech like he did to the media to the guys who share his dressing room, I firmly believe that the fans in Charlotte will see a very different team tonight against Lake Erie. Peters has a huge amount of pride in this team, the men who battle in front of him each and every night, the fans in the stands and the management that surrounds him. He believes in this team, and to be honest, he did a lot to inspire me to come back from the seeds of doubt that had begun to creep into my mind as I watched the Checkers get beaten by a team that should not have fared so well against the Checkers mighty offense, and a defensive group that has a number of NHLers in its ranks.
Peters said, “Look no farther than in the mirror. You know, you can’t be looking around for answers from someone else. No one feels sorry for us. I think the main thing that I’m doing, and I hope everyone else is doing is look in the mirror. And you know, make sure you show up ready to play and in turn you are going to help the team.”
Peters continued a bit later with this, confident in his words, and filled with conviction,
“We need to come and we need to give better effort at home. We need to come out and take pride in home ice and take care of business when we can.….We can’t be taking that for granted in this beautiful building…. We need to do a better job for our home fans, too, in our home rink.”
I firmly believe the team we see on the ice tonight will be a different one than the group of black jersey wearing athletes that skated last night. I have a lot of faith, and am looking forward to a great battle between Lake Erie and Charlotte.
Let’s Go Checkers