The one about the roadtrip to Hershey

In the course of 36 hours, four of us drove to Hershey and back to cheer on our Charlotte Checkers.  While the game outcome wasn’t what I would have wanted, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I’m writing this in the passenger seat of a car that is headed back to Charlotte, and I’ll post it when I get home and recovered.  Our adventure is over, and despite the loss it was worth it to make the trip.  The team played incredibly hard and with a lot of fire and determination, but it just wasn’t our night.  Over the course of the season, I’ve come to love the team so much that I knew I just had to support them on the road in the playoffs, and it was totally worth it.

About the game:

Most confusing non-goal ever. Puck crossed the line, but disallowed. Penalty called on Dalpe AND Souray, each for slashing (nowhere near the puck), sending two players to the box. Whistle never blew till after puck crossed goal line, no time was added to scoreboard.

Zac Dalpe had a great night, scoring both of the Checkers goals.  I was incredibly impressed by two of our defensemen, Michal Jordan and Brett Bellemore.   know the AHL doesn’t track Time On Ice as an official stat, but by my best guess, I’d say Jordan was out there for at least 26 or 27 minutes, and Bellemore played close to that many minutes.  It seemed like every other shift, I’d see Jordan hustling and doing everything in his power to keep Hershey down.  Although Jordan had a -3 for the night, it’s not a true sign of how well he played at all.  He was a beast on the ice, and I was so glad to have him out there.

Casey Borer had a very lackluster performance, and seemed lazy at times on the ice.  His ice time seemed to decrease a great deal as the game went on.  Based on his performance (or lack there of) and the fact that clearly the Checkers want to play Jordan as many minutes as they do, we have got to bench one of our six regular defensemen in favor of newly signed Justin Faulk.  Even if Faulk isn’t ready to play major minutes with his new team, we’ve got guys like Jordan and Bellemore who can cover for him, so I think it’s time to give the rookie a shot.

All in all, it was a fun game to watch.  I was going to avoid discussing the goaltending situation for once, but I can’t do that.  Justin Pogge seemed strong at first, but a couple of the goals he let in just weren’t that challenging.  He seemed very tired, which is understandable considering how many starts he’s gotten recently, but he had also had two full days off since the last game with no traveling, so he should have gotten some rest.  Braden Holtby continues to confuse me when he plays the Checkers.  In this game, he was stronger than he usually was, but he never settled down, and had an edge of uncertainty about him the entire game, despite the final score.

Thoughts about the arena and the fans:

I have a feeling I’ll come back to the idea of Hershey and their fans in a later blog, but that will have to wait.

In a nutshell, I was reminded once again how lucky we are to have such a fantastic, state-of-the-art NHL caliber arena in Charlotte.  It’s not that the Giant Center is a dump, it’s a great barn that the Bears fans fill time and time again, but between the incredibly hard plastic seats, the overly high boards and glass that was far-too-short, I missed the TWCA a lot.

I was so used to being COLD at a hockey game (and I’ve been in a lot of professional rinks, all across the US and even Canada), but I’ve never been so warm at a game.  The ice seemed to be suffering as a result of the conditions, too. Pucks were bouncing all over the place, and there were a lot of odd slips and falls by players.

I really missed the Southern hospitality of the fans in Charlotte.  I’ve greeted so many away team fans and welcomed them to our arena that it was hard to get used to the absolutely repulsive and obscene things said to us by some of the male fans.

Fitzy

So… starting with the positives.  First of all, there are NO ICE GIRLS IN HERSHEY.  This was a huge plus.  I find hockey cheerleaders generally offensive, and that they tend to take away from the experience instead of adding to it.  I’m sorry, but scantily clad women gyrating like strippers to bad dance music just does not say HOCKEY to me.  If hockey cheerleaders actually engaged the crowd instead of dancing, I might not be so bothered by them, but they don’t lead chants or cheers.  They don’t help stir up the crowd.  Hershey’s fanbase proved that you do NOT need cheerleaders/dancers/ice girls to get the crowd involved.  The entire crowd cheered in unison every time the Bears scored (which unfortunately, was four times), and they were loud.  I loved that.  I did not, however, love the glass banging.  WHY is it ok in the AHL to bang on the glass??  It makes me crazy.

I did not like some of the fans near us.  While I completely understand I was in someone else’s barn, I don’t think I should have obscene things screamed at me by fans.  I was respectful, only cheering or standing when my team scored, to which I would receive “Sit down, bitch” or other colorful phrases.  During one of the intermissions, their mascot Coco skated to where we were sitting on the glass and kind of taunted us in a fun way, pointing to the polar bears on our jersey and giving us a thumbs down.  That’s totally fine, and I’m sure our own Chubby does similar things.  But then, this fan sitting two rows behind me (who I believe had previously called me “bitch”) yells “Hey Coco, teabag those Checkers fans”  because, you know, that is a REALLY family friendly thing to scream in front of your three children who all appeared to be under the age of five.

After the game, some of Fitzy’s Posse told us fans in their section held a small infant up when their team scored and would shake him like an ice girl shakes a pom-pom, which is a VERY disturbing image.  Shaking a baby at a hockey game?  Really?  I also heard stories of fans pouring beer over the VERY short glass (seriously, I could reach over it, and I’m not a tall person!)  onto the backs of the away team.  Is that really appropriate behavior?  I realize you want your home team to win (as will I this week in Charlotte), but pouring beer on a player is so juvenile and bush-league.  Do fans like that not realize that they wouldn’t have a game to be at if it wasn’t for the guys in Red, skating for the away team?  I’ve heard of entire sections of fans standing up and flipping off the away team, and somehow this is acceptable behavior in Hershey.  If a player did that, I’m sure they would face fines or even suspension, but apparently it’s ok for the Hershey fans to do… quite the double standard!

My absolute favorite argument was with a fan who thought it was really cool that they were paying one of their players $5 million dollars to play in the AHL.  I didn’t want to correct him, but actually, the Edmonton Oilers are paying Sheldon Souray $4.5 milion to play in the Eastern Conference of the AHL, for a team that has absolutely no connection to the Oil.  You see, Souray became quite a cancer in the dressing room last season, and the Oilers were unable to trade him.  They felt so strongly about how negatively he affected their club, that they didn’t want him on their own AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons, where he might negatively influence their prospects, nor did they even want him on a western conference team, so they shipped him to Hershey in an agreement with the Washington Capitals.  So if a fan wants to think it’s COOL that the two-time, back-to-back WORST TEAM in the NHL doesn’t want a player that they shipped him for free to the Bears, then so be it.

I want to end on a positive note though… not all of the fans we encountered were bad people.  We sat with great people during warmups, and met a lot of concerned fans who asked about the tornado damage in Raleigh and all over North Carolina.  Many were impressed we made the trek to Hershey, and we invited them to come see their team play in Charlotte.

We definitely missed Chief Fan Rouser Wilson, and the way the Checkers have an in-game personality who keeps things flowing.  To be honest though, we did NOT miss all of the “commercials” we are forced to endure at Checkers games at every single TV timeout.  I don’t know how Hershey can avoid all of these promos, but it was nice to not have to see someone stuffing their face with chicken, or doing the chicken dance or the electric slide at every break in play!  And again, I LOVED that there weren’t half-naked ice girls skating around in figure skate to clear the ice, and instead their were professional looking ice-technicians in hockey skates doing it instead.

After the game, all of the Checkers fans found their way to the back of the arena where the players exited, and many of them circulated among the crowd, genuinely thanking us for making the trip.  I’m not one to really seek out the team like that, or ever ask for autographs (like some of the ebay-selling autograph hounds were doing) but it was so nice to see our team so thankful of the support the fans in Charlotte provide.  Zack Fitzgerald was of course one of the most incredible players, who sought out every fan in a Checkers, Canes or River Rats jersey to personally thank them for coming.  THAT is why we have a first-class team in the Charlotte Checkers!

Wrapping it up:

First of all, THANK YOU for reading this far.  I have a lot more to say, but I fear if I wrote anything else, nobody would want to read it.  I also have at least 50 great pictures of the game, warmups, etc., but don’t want to overload this blog with photographs!

Secondly, LET’S DO THIS CHECKERS (and fans!)!!!!!  Tomorrow night is going to be a HUGE game in Charlotte, and we need the W.  If all ends the way it should, we could wrap the series up on Friday and head to the second round.  So please come out and support OUR team.  They deserve everything we can give them.

Lets Go Checkers!

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15 thoughts on “The one about the roadtrip to Hershey

  1. Glad you enjoyed a portion of your trip to Giant Center. I can’t comment about the warmth of the building as I have only been to a few other arenas. And as for the Giant Center…it is one of the better buildings in the AHL. Most buildings in the A are much much worse. You have the advantage of playing in an NBA building so the amenities in that place will be better.

    As for the fans…can’t say I didn’t warn you. Unfortunately some of the Hershey fans get a little too into the game and their emotions get the best of them. There are plenty of great Bears fans out there unfortunately it is the loud, rude, obnoxious ones that you hear.

    So far it has been a good series. I get the feeling that we will see Murphy in goal before too long. From what I understand he is cleared to return and was in Hershey but they elected to not use him. I am not as worried about the series if Pogge remains in goal. Your offense is so fast and talented, you can see the speed difference at all times. Best of 5 now though.

    Glad you enjoyed the trip and some aspects of the building/fans. Hopefully you will make a return trip in the future!

    Go Bears!!

  2. I love the addition of the video clips…since I don’t get to many games it is fun to see the highlights. I love the logo and the NASCAR black and white reference. It seems like we also need a reference to Queen Charlotte….I’m thinking the statue of Queen Charlotte at the airport….but somehow that’s not quite modern enough. But Blog Mistress…you can figure it out!

  3. I thought that may have been you guys from this blog that I saw at the game. I am sorry you were spoken too like that by some Hershey fans. I guess we do get a little over zealous, but being called names like that is NOT acceptable.
    I wish I would have been able to come over and say hello and welcome you.
    Glad you all made it home safe.
    ~Laurie

    • There was way too much unacceptable behavior, if you ask me. Pouring beer on the visiting team, and calling names and screaming homophobic slurs is just not something any fan of a team should do.

      Honestly though, the good really did outweigh the bad… I do admire the passion of many of the fans, and the history of hockey in Hershey, but the maturity level is unacceptable. Needless to say, while I enjoyed my trip and will follow my team anywhere, I don’t think I’ll ever return to Hershey, PA for a game.

      Thanks though!

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  5. I know this is a late comment, but I am a Hershey STH who is embarrassed and ashamed of those “fans” in our barn who shout derogatory comments at the other team and their fans. I don’t often hear inappropriate commentary, but it does happen, and sadly it has increased during the playoffs. Those few immature jerks give the rest of us a bad name. I have never heard anything about the beer-pouring incident(s), and I am actually surprised about that as security sits in the aisle behind the visitors’ bench throughout the entire game.

    My apologies to you on behalf of the majority of us Bears fans who are passionate about our team, but who have enough respect for the sport and people in general to keep our cheers and chants clean. I’m sorry your experience was a less-than-positive one. 😦

    Good luck throughout the rest of the series, and if you beat us, good luck beyond. Anyone but the Penguins is my motto! 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your words. Honestly, after the game this weekend and seeing Hershey fans in Charlotte last night, it was hard for me to smile and greet them as I usually do visiting fans. I just had such a bad taste in my mouth from the way we were treated when we were in your barn.

      And the beer pouring was told to me directly from one of the people who has had beer poured on him… so who knows. Maybe Hershey needs to invest in better security rink-wide (who are more concerned with fan behavior than camera size) and higher glass around the playing area!

  6. I know HERCO is trying to do something about how the unruly fans act at games. A good number of those are the “fare weather” fans and really don’t know hockey. They’re the ones that scream shoot it when they cross the defensive blue line.

    Every time I see the ones doing this stuff it sickens me. I’ve stopped going to the 100 level seats entirely because of it, plus I don’t want my 3 yr old subjected to that. It is a bit more quiet in the 200s.

    I’m truly sorry for that unacceptable immature behavior you experienced. I’m also sorry that it may keep you from coming back.

    Best of luck the rest of the way! It’s been GREAT so far!

    • Is that why they have a longer list of rules than I have seen at any arena, ever? (From the no tailgating to the no cameras with detachable lenses thing?) I hope they can succeed, but I fear it could be a losing battle. The most offensive fan around me had three children with him, and it didn’t stop him from screaming gay slurs at the players, and calling me names. If I do go back, I’ll keep that in mind about the 100 level seats. Usually, it’s the guys in the upper level that are so hateful in my experience… so it’s interesting to hear the upper level is the calm section of your arena!

      And I agree, it has been a great series so far. It’s very evenly matched, and there’s been some great hockey played.

  7. I’m so sorry that you had a poor experience with the fans in Hershey. I agree with HBH Blog that it’s the loud obnoxious ones that one would hear and not all Bears fans are like that. I agree all in all with what HBH Blog had said. Hopefully it won’t deter you from coming back again…in general the fans are pretty cool but it’s the loud “passionate” ones that leave the impression.

    As far as Sheldon Souray, he’s actually a very nice individual and I have not seen any “cancerous” behavior by him. He gets along with fans and even the “lowly” workers. He appears to try to be part of the team. Other than the stuff that has been printed about him being a negative influence, I don’t know the full story. I take those news articles with a grain of salt because I haven’t seen him being negative. But to each their own…I respect their opinion and all I can ask is that people respect mine.

    • The Oilers have always been my favorite team in the NHL, so I followed the Souray story through from an Oilers fan perspective. It’s good to hear he’s been a positive addition to the room in Hershey. When he signed in Edmonton, I was so excited, until he started portraying the organization in such a negative light, which led the team to ban him from all camp activities and relegate him to another franchise’s AHL club.

      But thanks for your kind words. I don’t know if I’ll be back in Hershey… after the slew of names I was called, it would be hard for me to give the arena a second chance…. not with people who pour beer on my team, and scream the things they did at me.

      Come to Charlotte! We might be a new franchise, but we know how it’s done!

  8. Beer pouring on other fans is not ok. That’s disrespectful. I believe it’s section 116 that is a no alcohol section so that may be an option to sit in plus that section and 117 are usually where the family and friends of the players sit so they are typically more calm anyway.

    I would have loved to come down to see the Games this week in Charlotte, unfortunately between work and class, I wasn’t able to. Maybe next season, I’ll be able to make it down because I like to see how other teams are like at home.

    • You would definitely be welcome here! We had a lot of Hershey fans earlier in the season at games. Charlotte is a GREAT city with great fans and a great arena in a fun, downtown area that is thriving with fun and entertainment opportunities.

      And at the cost of stadium beer, why waste it by pouring it out!!!!! Good to know about section 117. I was in 118 for the game.

  9. So glad to see you made the trip from NC. Charlotte is one of my favorite cities (NASCAR background talking here!). However, I am very disappointed that you were treated so poorly by some of the “fans”
    There are fans in Hershey that respect the sport and understand the history. We overzealously support our team – and let them know when we are not pleased. We hold the officials to be accountable (You “unfortunately” were not treated to our famous BS chant), as well as our players and coaching staff.
    Then there are the people who show up at the game to get drunk and show off. I am not going to apologize for that – I am ashamed to have people in attendance who act like that. I would ask, however, that you remember that the real fans of the Hershey Bears would not behave in such a manner. We DO exist.
    If you would have the opportunity to return to the Sweetest Place on Earth, please contact one of us. I’m sure there’s someone who can hook you up with great seats and a better atmosphere.
    You guys have a lot of talent on this team and your future is very bright with guys like Dalpe, Matsumoto, and Murphy on board (for however long you get to keep them in the AHL). I wish you all the best this season….but, GO BEARS!

    (Oh, I love your feelings regarding the ice girls. I personally do NOT want to see that in Hershey.)
    Kim

    • Thanks so much for the message, Kim. It’s nice to know that the good does outweigh the bad as far as fans go!!!!!

      And you’re right… we do have a lot of talent… I just don’t know how long we’ll get to keep them in Charlotte. We’ve got a great model in place with the Canes though, and the development process is thriving with our partnership!

      And down with ice girls EVERYWHERE!

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