Checkers announce move “home” to the birthplace of hockey in Charlotte and relocate to Bojangles Coliseum in 2015-16.

The Checkers announced today that they would be moving out of Time Warner Cable Arena next season, and back to the birthplace of hockey in the south, the old Charlotte Coliseum on Independence Blvd, which is known today as Bojangles Coliseum.  The Coliseum is on the Charlotte historic register, and is the largest free-standing dome in the world since Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena was demolished in 2011.

As most hockey historians know, the first professional hockey game was held at Bojangles Coliseum in January, 1956 after the Baltimore Clippers arena burned down, and the team needed a temporary home to play the remainder of the year.  Hockey had never been played professionally in the South, and the Checkers success was crucial to the southern expansion of the sport. In the fall of 1956, the Clippers relocated permanently to Charlotte, and later became the Charlotte Checkers, a team that has been a fixture in Charlotte for much of the past 60 years.

The Checkers moved to uptown Charlotte in 2006 when TWCA was built and the NBA returned to Charlotte with the Bobcats, and now Hornets.  In 2010, the Checkers were upgraded to the AHL after many successful seasons in the ECHL.

I’ve been a fixture at Checkers games regularly since 2010.  The first hockey game I ever attended was in 1993 at the old coliseum.  I don’t have as many memories of games at the old barn, but from what I’ve been told, the atmosphere was electric.

I’ve also been lucky enough to visit a number of AHL hockey arenas over the past five season.  Hershey, which has a similar capacity to Bojangles Coliseum, is an exciting place to watch a game (especially in the playoffs, when the Checkers win a game!).  Rockford and Peoria were also outstanding venues, because the size of the arena was a better fit to the fan base.  A full building is always an exciting building.  Both of those arenas were located in downtown areas, but the smaller size made it much more fun than the vast, empty TWCA on most Checkers nights.

Will I miss having games in uptown? Heck yes.  I work uptown. I spend a lot of my free time there as well, at local bars and restaurants.  I love the convenience of TWCA and the fact I never have to pay to park because I walk there from work, and have dozens of choices of places to meet friends and family for drinks before or after games.

Though those are certainly downfalls and inconveniences for me, the move to Bojangles Coliseum is going to be a good one for the city of Charlotte, the Checkers and the fans, and here are just a few reasons:

  • Instead of having to curtain off the top half of a gigantic building, Checkers fans will be able to fill the coliseum night after night, from top to bottom. Can you imagine the sound of a game under the Bojangles dome? It will be incredible.
  • The Charlotte Checkers will no longer have to pack up and travel to Indian Trail for practice. Having their own home ice for games and practice will be a huge benefit to the team.
  • The Checkers will have their OWN building. They won’t be the minor league team that rents an NBA arena 36 times a year, but as the primary tenant at Bojangles, they will have a space that will be Charlotte Checkers, through and through.
  • The schedule will be much improved for home games. Instead of having to play second fiddle to the Hornets (and the circus, and Disney on Ice, and every other event), the Checkers will have a say in when their home games are played, and won’t be competing with other tenants at TWCA.
  • The Checkers (and Clippers) won six championships (in a number of different leagues) while they played at Bojangles Coliseum. They have not yet won a championship at TWCA, so maybe a move back to their roots is what is needed to get back in the championship chase.
  • An upgraded Bojangles Coliseum will be a huge step towards revitalizing East Charlotte and Independence Blvd. As an East-side resident, this excites me a great deal. The venue has so much history. The list of people who have performed under it’s dome is a long one: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, The Who, The Jackson 5, Judy Garland, The Rolling Stones… you get the idea.
  • I’d much rather see the city of Charlotte upgrade Bojangles Coliseum to what it was designed and built to be, a hockey arena and sports venue, then the dumb youth basketball court they talked about doing recently.
  • The $16 million in upgrades are long overdue for this historic venue. Instead of being a city that bulldozes new construction when it no longer serves a purpose (Tyvola Road Coliseum, most of uptown Charlotte, etc.) I’m happy to see the city preserving and revitalizing what they have. Charlotte is a world class city, and our history is important. I’m excited to see what they can do for $16 million, though I know it won’t be enough.

What are my fears of the move? They are few, and mostly have to do with human nature having a hard time with change.

  • $16 million isn’t a lot of money. Technology is EXPENSIVE, and new videoboards, seats, lighting, a sound system, bathroom upgrades etc. cost a lot of money.  Last summer the Belk Theater spent $1.6 million to replace 2000 seats and upgrade ONE bathroom, and Bojangles Coliseum is five times the size.  New dressing rooms and the backstage areas are in disrepair at Bojangles, and will require more than just a coat of paint to freshen them up.
  • The Hornets claim that they need $30 million to upgrade TWCA… and it’s a much newer building that got a number of upgrades for the recent 2012 Democratic National Convention. Where is all that money going, and why do they need it over a historic building that hasn’t been upgraded practically since it opened in 1956?
  • Parking at Bojangles might be a drag. I live close by the Coliseum, but not close enough to walk, and public transportation isn’t an option. The City of Charlotte charges $10 to park for events at Bojangles and Ovens Auditorium. This is way too much, and I don’t look forward to shelling out that kind of cash!
  • I’m going to miss all of the options in walking distance of the arena. I enjoy sharing a beer before and after games and on the nearly-dead Independence Blvd., this won’t be an option.

All in all?  Two thumbs up for this historic move home to the birthplace of hockey in Charlotte.

Charlotte Checkers win big against San Antonio, gain two more points in the standings.

The Charlotte Checkers came away with a gritty 4-3 win over San Antonio in front of a sold-out crowd tonight.

Chris Terry scored two of the Checkers three powerplay goals, extending his streak to five games.  He now has seven points over that stretch of games, and 31 points over the last 25 games (12g, 19a).  He’s sixth in the league with 59 points (26g, 23a). That’s #Terryiffic.

Despite two full powerplay opportunities for Charlotte during the first period, the team was outshot 13-11 and no scoring for either team.  The second period, thanks in part to nearly two minutes on a 5-on-3, had the Checkers outshooting their opposition 21-9, and had the Checkers leading 3-1 by the end of it.

San Antonio found the back of the net twice in the third period, but a late powerplay goal by Terry sealed the Checkers victory over the Rampage.

Nicolas Blanchard stood out as a major roleplayer in tonight’s win.  He was in the right place at the right time, and a key to Brody Sutter’s second period goal, and Coach Jeff Daniels spoke highly of Blanchard’s on-ice performance.

“Blanch is a guy [who] as coaches, we really appreciate.” Daniels continued, “We appreciate what he does not only for us but for his teammates on the ice.”

Chris Terry, the game’s first star, knows Sunday’s game will be another battle.

“They’ve got a really good team. A lot of NHL guys who play the body, play hard,” Terry continued, “We’re going to expect the same thing. We’re going to have to push back and nothing less than two points is acceptable at this time of the year.”

The playoff push continues for Charlotte, who now 12 games remaining, including two more against San Antonio.

Charlotte Checkers Update: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The Good:

  • Dan Ellis makes a save for the Charlotte Checkers in Peoria on Saturday night. (Photo – S. Neer http://www.tsn-photography.com)

    The Checkers have only one more game in their nine game roadtrip before returning to Charlotte for their home opener on Sunday. Their record is currently 6-1-0-1, which is FREAKING AWESOME.  Last year, after eight games, the Checkers were 5-2-1, and in 2010 after eight games, they were 2-6.

  • Dan Ellis, after a PERFECT weekend on the road, was named the AHL player of the week.  Though he was only scheduled to play in one of the team’s three games, he played 38 minutes of the game on Friday in relief of Justin Peters, who had a bit of a shaky start.
  • Captain Brett Sutter had a hat trick on Sunday in Peoria.  Hopefully, Checkers fans will get to see another one at home this season!
  • Want to see some outstanding shots from the Checkers game in Peoria last weekend? Scott Neer of TSN Photography had some GREAT shots that are all posted at the Blue Note Zone.
  • After eight games worth of listening, it’s safe to say that the partnership with ESPN 730 is just about the COOLEST thing to come from the Checkers.  The feed is always crisp and clear, and I can stream it on my iPhone when on the road.  It’s SO much better than that product you have to pay for to get crappy video and audio!
  • The Chasing Checkers Game Day Twitter List seems to be getting a favorable response.  I will continue to add and fine tune each team’s Twitter lists and change them on game day.  Feel free to suggest people to add on any given day!
  • #LetsGoCheckers

    It’s almost Halloween, and that means pumpkin carving.  This was my first attempt at surface scraping… what do you think?

The Bad: 

  • Chris Terry was given a three-game suspension by the AHL on Sunday for a peculiar elbowing situation in Grand Rapids on Friday.  I say peculiar, because there was no call on the ice when it happened, and Grand Rapids did not submit the play for review to the AHL.  Needless to say, Chris Terry who is considered to be one of the hardest working players on the Checkers and has never missed a game due to illness or injury, will now have five missed games in his professional career, all due to suspensions due to on-ice activities in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Following the first-period elbow in Grand Rapids, Terry went on to score the game winning goal shorthanded, and added an empty net goal to seal the win for the Checkers. Terry SHOULD make his Checkers home appearance next Tuesday against Chicago.
  • My friends over at The Admirals Roundtable will have seen MY team, the Charlotte Checkers, twice after tomorrow night, and fans here at home still have yet to see them.  It’s not fair! Thankfully, waiting until Sunday seems bearable at this time.
  • I picked up my season tickets on Friday, though I wasn’t able to hang out for BBQ (and as a vegetarian, it wasn’t a huge loss, though I must say, the Q has great sides and an amazing beer selection!).  Is it petty for me to say I was a bit disappointed to have them handed to me in a manila envelope when I know other teams had much fancier presentation with souvenirs and mementos included? After getting cool Tervis tumblers season one along with a fun meet-the-team event, and season ticket holder jerseys season two… a plain envelope was a bit of a let down.
  • As you can probably tell, I’ve decided not to do game-day previews for away games this season.  As a graduate student desperately trying to finish my Master’s thesis, and having a crazy job in the busiest time of the year, I just can’t keep up with everything, so away games were the first sacrifice.  If you’d like to contribute to Chasing Checkers as a regular contributor of things like previews, please drop me a line and I can put you to work!

The Ugly:

  • Despite having a large roster of healthy players to pull from, Jared Staal and Justin Soryal have each only played in one game this season.  Soryal made the cut on Sunday in Peoria after Terry was suspended, and Staal’s only start came during the season opener in Houston on October 13.  Last week, Paul Branecky reported that Staal had a maintenance day, which just… seems peculiar considering he hasn’t played a game in weeks.
  • AJ Jenks and Justin Krueger have each only played in three games.  Their games tend to come with Victor Rask or Justin Faulk are scratched, neither of whom has had to play a three-in-three yet.

The One Where the Checkers Stole My Heart (aka The Miracle at Mohegan)

Editor’s Note:  I’m here to bring you another special guest blog, this time from Renee, and Raleigh Checkers fan and friend of Chasing Checkers who was lucky enough to be in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday night.  I asked her to do a quick write-up about her experience, and this is way more awesome than I expected, except that she didn’t refer to Chris Terry as Terryiffic as I would have.  Thanks, Renee, for your insight!

The One Where the Checkers Stole My Heart (aka The Miracle at Mohegan)

Hell, who am I fooling? Anyone who knows me knows that the Checkers had a place in my heart the moment they became affiliated with my beloved Carolina Hurricanes.

But when did the giddy schoolgirl crush turn from carefree flirting into a full blown love affair?

Saturday morning, all decked out in Checkers gear, my sister-in-law Abi and I hit the road from Raleigh to Binghamton with a scheduled pitstop in Wilkes-Barre, PA for Game 6 between the Checkers and Penguins. Perfect timing. I could watch my boys finish off this series and then continue on to enjoy a week’s vacation at Mom’s.

We entered the arena excited and a bit nervous. During warmups we talked with a couple of nice Hershey fans that drove up to the game to cheer for the Checkers. (I know some of you may be shocked that there is such a thing after experiences in Hershey this year!) Though I was a little disappointed in the turnout for a Saturday night playoff game – especially when it could have been the Pens’ last of the year – I must say that the fans were very friendly and a lot of fun (noted exception being the lady who felt the need to drop f-bombs at us every time we cheered). Playful chirping started before the drop of the puck, with the guy behind me yelling that he hoped Murph could count to 7. I, of course, promptly made him aware that Murph only needed to know up to 6.
***Shout out to WBS fan, Matt, whose taunts kept me pumped up even after the Checkers fell behind. Matt, a word of advice, though…you really should be a little more creative than throwing the word “sucks” in there every other chirp. Work on that in the off-season and you’ll be gold for ’11-’12.***

The back and forth continued through the first period and got worse as the Pens took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. Superstition set in so Abi and I decided that we needed to shake up the hockey mojo and swapped seats for the start of the third. Vitale’s shorty early in the period hit hard. I’ll admit, I was starting to hate the fact that I would have to drive back down to Wilkes-Barre on Monday for Game 7, yet as the Pens fans kept telling me they’d see me Monday, I continued to respond that the game was not over. I brought up Game 5 against Hershey and stated that the Checkers now had the Pens right where they wanted them.

Enter Chris Terry and begin the final capture of my heart.

Now of course, the first of Chris Terry’s third period goals just started my fall. It was the total team effort that night that completely pulled me under…

It was Murph keeping the boys in the game through the first 2+ periods until they could find a way to solve Thiessen and bust the scoring wide open.

It was Bryan Rodney coming out of the penalty box to feed Sutter for the score and keep the momentum in favour of the Checkers.

It was Michal Jordan firing the wrister that was tipped by Terry to tie the game just 30 seconds later.

It was Zac Dalpe playing the role of hero and giving the Checkers the lead with just 3:18 remaining in the third.

It was the life being sucked out of the building after Dalpe’s goal; Abi and I starting and sustaining a “Let’s Go Checkers” chant that we were told could be heard on the AHL Live tv and radio feeds.

It was the relentless pressure after Dalpe’s goal that kept the Pens hemmed in their zone and would not allow Thiessen off the ice for the extra attacker until there were less than 30 seconds left in the game.

It was the exhilarating feeling that overcame me when that final horn sounded. It was screaming so loud as I watched the Checkers surround Murph in celebration that I had no voice left. It was Fitzy skating across the ice and launching himself in jubilation into the glass right in front of us.

It was the adrenaline rush that kept me going after only 2 hours of sleep followed by a 9 hour drive from Raleigh.

It was realizing that the Binghamton Senators had just become the enemy;
that the city I grew up in, the city that introduced me to hockey was now hostile territory…

It was realizing that I had fallen head over heels in love and that the Charlotte Checkers had just stolen my heart.