Team appreciates loud support
Trent Yawney had listened to the questions and provided answers, and the interview was drawing to a close. Then, unprompted, the Syracuse Crunch coach spoke about his four-day stay in St. John’s.
“I didn’t like the way it ended, but that was about the only thing I didn’t like,” Yawney said Friday night after the Crunch’s 4-3 overtime loss to the St. John’s IceCaps at Mile One Centre ended Syracuse’s American Hockey League season.
“I’d never been here before. It was the first time for me and I really enjoyed it. The fans … they’ve got a great thing going with these fans. They’re crazy and they’re passionate. They cheer against (opposition teams) on the ice and show the greatest hospitality to them everywhere else.”
“It’s pretty cool that (the IceCaps) are the farm team of the Winnipeg Jets, because this is a mini Winnipeg.”
With the Crunch dispatched, the IceCaps turn their attention to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the opposition for the best-of-seven second-round series that begins tonight at Mile One (7:30 p.m., CJYQ AM, Rogers Television).
The Penguins should find Mile One just as Yawney and the Crunch left it Friday after Derek Meech’s game-winning goal: full of white noise, loud and a good chance of being even louder, the noise level having increased at about the same rate as the 50-50 payout, which was more than $17,000 last Wednesday when St. John’s beat Syracuse 5-1, and $19,400 Friday. Nobody would be surprised for it to hit $20,000 tonight — the 50-50 buzz is part of the overall cacophony.
It hasn’t always been this way. Much like a hockey team, the IceCaps’ fans have been a work in progress this season. They’ve packed Mile One for the AHL’s return after a six-year absence — Friday saw the 40th straight home-game sellout — but the noise level has varied.
It was loud for the first game, loud for the St. Patrick’s Day contest when the IceCaps wore special green jerseys, extremely loud in mid-February when the IceCaps and visiting Worcester Sharks decided they didn’t like each other and kept dropping the gloves.
Other times, not so much. The packed houses cheered the goals, the nifty moves, the big saves and the important little plays that might go unappreciated in some other locales, but always got their due in St. John’s.
However, the noise never really seemed to flow freely. It was as if it was a reservoir of sound, waiting for a prompt to open the gates, a reason to pour out.
Something has busted the dam.
Maybe it’s part of the thaw of spring and the better mood that comes with longer days and more frequent reminders that the sun does exist.
Maybe it’s because the playoffs are indeed a different time, and different times require different approaches.
But the fans have found their voices, perhaps in the same places they’ve been keeping those white shirts they’ve been wearing in reponse to the IceCaps’ whiteout request.
It’s been loud at Mile One for the first two games of the Calder Cup playoffs. And for the most part, it’s been unconditionally loud. Yes, the IceCaps’ games operations people have done their bit, pushing the buttons, but they haven’t had to hit refresh very often.
“One of the things that had to happen this year, and has happened, is that the fans had to take over,” said Glenn Stanford, the IceCaps’ governor and chief operating officer.
“And the fans did take over in that first (playoff) game. We prompted them a bit, urging them to wear white and be loud, but they took over this building themselves, starting with how loud they were singing the national anthem to how much noise they made when we won in overtime the other night. The fans have claimed ownership of this, and we’re going to let them run with it.”
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The Music Collection Mount Pearl Drumline, whose pre-game show proved extremely popular during the games against Syracuse “will be back for every (playoff) game based on their schedule,” according to Stanford. “They’re on a game-to-game basis, based on whether they are available.”
Definitely returning tonight will be Soraya Carrim, who performed “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” for the two games against Syracuse.
In his AHL management career, stretching back two decades, Stanford has had a policy of staying with anthem singers during team winning streaks (remember Mallory Johnson in the AHL Leafs days?)
“We had a singer named Lauraleigh Groppo we used during one long playoff run in Hamilton,” said Stanford, recalling the days when he ran the AHL Bulldogs. “She did well … got us nine wins.”
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St. John’s rookie winger Carl Klingberg says he “never heard chanting so loud as when Meech scored that goal” in overtime Friday. “The loudest I’ve heard in a hockey game.”
But Klingberg notes there is always room for impovement, at least when it comes to game-day fashion.
“I hope everyone understands the need to wear some white,” he said. “You could still see some dark spots in the the stands. The only dark colours we should see are blue Winnipeg or St. John’s jerseys.”
St. John’s IceCaps
Overall record: 43-25-8 (94 pts)
Standings: First in Atlantic Division, second seed in Eastern Conference
Home record: 20-15-3; Road record: 23-10-5
Power play: 20.6% (73/355) – 3rd
Penalty kill: 82.8% (260/314) – 13th
Stats leaders — Points: Spencer Machacek (50);
Goals: Jason King (22); Assists: Machacek/Jason DeSantis (32)
Overall record: 44-25-7 (95 pts)
Home record: 18-16-4; Road record: 26-9-3
Power play: 18.8% (65/346) – 10th
Penalty kill: 81.6% (284/348) – 22nd
Stats leaders — Points: Ben Street (57);
Goals: Street/Brian Lerg (27); Assists: Colin McDonald (35)
Season series: Each team won twice, with one of the Icecaps’ losses coming in OT. Neither team won at home.