OK, so the Checkers have lost seven games in a row. It sucks a lot. And sometimes it’s really hard to cheer for a losing team. But this team is more than a win loss percentage, and statistics on the score sheet. They are a huge part of my city, and have invested themselves in the community. For this, I’m so grateful, and proud to support this team, win or lose.
So to counter the on-ice ick (that’s a technical term) I’m going to list seven things to be thankful about regarding the Charlotte Checkers.
In no particular order:
1. The amazing Charlotte Checkers Charitable Foundation, and the community outreach that the team engages in. The Checkers gave nearly half a MILLION dollars last year in money and in-kind donations to local Charlotte charities and individuals. According to this press release, the team has given over $2.7 MILLION dollars to the Charlotte Community since Michael Kahn purchased the team in 2006. If that’s not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is!
2. Charlotte has become a site for veteran players to get a second chance, and that’s incredible. Not only is it great for the players, but we get to see NHL superstars on the ice. It’s pretty fantastic. We are privileged to have had the names of Dan Ellis, Manny Malhotra and Rick DiPietro grace the Checkers rosters over the past two seasons.
3. Not only do the Checkers give money to the community, they give themselves. This summer, the front office staff volunteered over 1000 hours to LOCAL Charlotte organizations. That’s pretty great. I appreciate that the Checkers focus their charitable impact on the local community.
4. The Checkers were the first professional team in North Carolina to take the “You Can Play” pledge. And I am SO PROUD of them for that. Way to go Checkers for standing up for what is right! (I wish the team would do an updated video for this season! We saw it only once or twice during the playoffs last season. Heck, show the old video. Just because guys like Justin Krueger are no longer on the team doesn’t mean it isn’t still relevant!)
5. While the current team is struggling a bit in the win column, so many fantastic players have been developed through the Checkers and Hurricanes AHL organization. Drayson Bowman, Justin Peters, Riley Nash, Chris Terry, Brett Bellemore all spent their AHL years developing in Charlotte (and Albany, before), and are now integral players on the Carolina Hurricanes roster. Others have gone on to the KHL and other elite European leagues. Zac Dalpe and Jeremy Welsh are both playing for the Vancouver Canucks, and former Checker Mike McKenzie is an assistant coach for the Kitchener Rangers, one of the most successful teams in the OHL. I’d say we have a pretty great thing going in Charlotte!
6. How fan-first the entire organization is. Do you need some examples of that? How about the following (OK, so I had more than seven thankful things, so I’m going to combine a few so I can stick to 7!):
- Seamless glass. I bet we can count on one hand how many AHL teams have invested in NHL caliber seamless glass. And it is AMAZING. Every time I’m in the arena I grin just looking at it. It really is that incredible.
- I know how much mascots mean to families and kids, so I think it’s pretty cool that Chubby has a nephew now. Two mascots equals twice the fun for the kids in the stands!
- How approachable and awesome the front office staff is! The team has an amazing ticket sales staff, public relations and a fun, approachable COO are all signs of a fan-first, top notch organization. The team is full of people I consider my friends, and can’t think of another organization I feel this way about.
7. The team’s commitment to Charlotte hockey history. Sure, the team colors and logos have changed and evolved over the years, but they are still the Checkers, a team that has been in our city since 1960 (though, I’d consider the Clippers teams from 1956-1960 to be part of the Checkers history, too!). Over the summer, when the team adopted new, updated jerseys to reflect that of the new Hurricanes sweaters, the Checkers kept important elements of their own identity. They kept design elements that were important to the Checkers, like the black stripe and silver accents in the logo. I appreciate this. I also love the twitter and facebook posts with photos from the rich history of hockey in Charlotte.