BIRD’S-EYE VIEW: Hooked On Hockey, Fans Edition
Blog #13 – May 20, 2020
by John Peterson
One of my favorite things about meeting fans is hearing how and why they fell in love with the game.
Earlier this off-season, I shared some of the events that sparked my love for hockey.
At the end of that post, I asked you to comment and reveal what those moments were for you. I was blown away by the response and awed by the stories.
One thing I’ve learned about most hockey fans, especially those who latch onto their hometown team, is they’re extremely loyal. Through thick and thin, these fans are diehards.
We’re not just talking about rooting for their team to win every night. We’re talking about the fans who embrace the atmosphere. Those who value the theme nights, the unique jersey designs and the variety of players who don their favorite team’s colors.
Obviously winning helps drive our obsession with our favorite teams. That’s just human nature and the competitiveness we all carry with us.
But the Kalamazoo pride I’ve seen since arriving here last summer, coupled with the attachment to history and the will to create more memories together is pretty special.
So let’s hear it. When did YOU get hooked on hockey?
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Through the K-Wings’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, we’re always paying attention to your feedback. Whether it’s a suggestion for something on your mind or a memory from an event that caught your attention, we love to hear from our great fans.
In response to my Hooked on Hockey blog, here were some of your stories that grabbed our attention:
Lorayne Clark: I fell in love with hockey when my daughter Kelsey married her best friend and hockey player, Justin Taylor. I'm still learning the game and have to ask Justin questions, but I really enjoy watching and I especially enjoy watching Justin play. He truly loves the game of hockey. He works hard and it shows on the ice. I could never quite get into watching it on TV. It seemed like it was so hard to follow the puck. When we would watch the K-Wings away games on ECHL TV, it was easier to follow the puck. Maybe it just helped to have someone I knew playing. Either way it’s a way of life now.
[Editor’s Note]: I always love hearing how family members get roped into becoming hockey fans. It could be a distant relative who is passionate about the game or in Lorayne’s case, her son-in-law…the K-Wings’ franchise record holder for games played.
Shannon Stickel: When I was seven, my dad left and didn't return to my life for 30 years. So my mom got me a "Big Sister" as she worked two jobs as a single mother. My sister's name was Meg. She was amazing. She took me to a hockey game to see what I thought at Bowling Green State University. I loved the game so much. I remember it so vividly. So she got us season tickets and we went to every home game. Then I remember for Christmas that year my mom got me my first skates. I got lessons and continued for two years until I decided that it would never be my thing. But hockey, that was my thing! We continued the season tickets for years. Then my grandpa died and we had to move to Michigan. I knew that I wanted to be wherever there was hockey. So I decided my college on who had the best hockey team and at the time it was Lake Superior. I went to every game, got to know the guys and loved every minute of it. Then I went to New York to be a nanny and the game of hockey was put on hold. Then in 2014 my mom died and I was a wreck. So my friends took me to a K-Wings game and I never loved the sport more than at that moment. The K-Wings became a family to me. It was my happy place. Now I am a season ticket holder, a booster member, and I am the loudest, bell-ringing crazy fan they have. I drive an hour to get there through sun, rain and snow. It is still my happy place and there is no place in the world I would rather be.
[Editor’s Note]: Thank you, Shannon, for sharing your story. It is amazing how different moments, happy or sad, shape who we are and what we hold dear. For instance, there is no way I’d be where I am today without my dad’s guidance and introduction to the sport, way before I set a goal to broadcast hockey for a career. Now I’m lucky to still have him as my biggest fan. In your case, your mom was there every step of the way and it sparked your love for hockey. What I find amazing is how there’s a “hockey family” in every city, where complete strangers form a bond around their favorite team and truly become like a second family.
Sue Haasch: My first experience with hockey was when my dad took the family to Olympia stadium in the early 70’s. I was 11. Fast forward to 1980 watching the U.S play Russia in the Olympics with my future husband. It was thrilling! Over the years I would watch hockey on TV, but it wasn’t that exciting sitting on my couch. My husband and I went to a couple of college games—MSU vs U of M, Northern vs Tech. Being in the arena was what changed me. The smell, the noise, the grit, the electricity. My husband took me to my first K-Wings game in 2017, not sure if I would like it. He had nothing to worry about! Ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with the game and this team.
[Editor’s Note]: I have a feeling the Miracle on Ice turned many Americans into hockey fans in 1980. Aside from being one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports, I don’t think there’s ever been a singular hockey moment that grew the game like that one. And to your point about the smell, the noise and the electricity? That might be my favorite part about being at a game in person. The whole experience is addicting and keeps me coming back for more.
Tia Reed: Green Ice Game. It was a fluke invite when my nephew was around five. So, nine years ago.
[Editor’s Note]: This plays to my point that some of us get attached to hockey through theme nights or memories that don’t necessarily have to do with the product on the ice. Kalamazoo’s Green Ice Game is legendary across minor league hockey. We were the first team ever to color the ice 39 years ago. That tradition brings people to the rink in and of itself.
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Ben Dimock: I started going to the Kalamazoo Wings games back in 1978. Back then people called it “Friday night at the fights “. There were a lot of fights back then and I loved it! The Kalamazoo Wings had good fighters. But then I got to know the game itself and fell in love with the game. It was then when they won the Turner Cup back-to-back. The Kalamazoo Wings have had some amazing teams throughout the years. The fighting has declined but I still love the game!
[Editor’s Note]: While fighting in hockey might not be what it used to be back in the “glory days”, I don’t think it’ll ever be erased from the sport. The game is too fast and the need for players to stick up for their teammates will always be present. The best part about working for a team with so much history is hearing stories about the past. Championships bring so much joy to the community and I look forward to the day that we all get to celebrate another one here in Southwest Michigan.
Sabina Boston: After my divorce, I wanted to find a fun way to spend time with my teenage sons. I started taking my youngest to K-Wings games (my oldest was already away at college). We attended several games and somewhere along the way I fell in love with the game. That was 20 years ago now and I am still loving the game. My hubby and I just re-signed as season ticket holders for the second time. We can't wait to be back in October.
[Editor’s Note]: Sports is the ultimate bonding experience between parents and their kids. I firmly believe that. Where else can you cheer together, learn together, eat together and spend three hours in an environment where hundreds of other families are doing the exact same thing?
Deb Adams: When I started dating my husband, I kind of got hooked immediately, but I'd been to many games in my earlier years of life. I guess I was interested, but just had nobody to really go with. When my hubby said he was interested, I gave it another chance and became a fast fan of the game, especially our K-Wings. Every year is different and every year we get our season tickets for the new season (7th upcoming.) I'm not really a sports fan but I'll be at every game because I love the action, the skating, the guys zipping and zooming around that ice and especially these WINS!! I love the rush of watching them win a game. I didn't think I'd be interested at the beginning but it created a special bond between my hubby and myself.
[Editor’s Note]: You don’t necessarily have to be a fan of sports or a specific sport to fall in love with the experience of attending a game. For instance, I’ve never been a big soccer fan, but I went to a Minnesota United MLS game last summer and it was such a memorable experience. I’d definitely go again. Oh, and it’s always fun to win!
Tracy Arnott: In fifth grade, I was in a new school. It was the first field trip I had ever been on with a school and we went to watch the K-Wings play. I didn't know anything about hockey. As a class, we were taking bets on the score and while everyone else was guessing numbers like 3-2, I was very optimistic and said something crazy like 38-30. Hell, what did I know? I was just a 10 year old girl. The minute that puck dropped, I was hooked! I found a sport that actually kept my interest and lasted more than a minute and a half horse race. Eventually, 39 years later, my husband and I are in a place in our life where we can afford season tickets and love everything and everyone about our hometown team!
[Editor’s Note]: Can you imagine a hockey game that ended 38-30 now? Don’t tell the goalies. Their anxiety levels would go through the roof!
Send me your questions on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, or send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll make an effort to answer them next week on Mailbag #3. These questions can be about hockey, individual players or coaches, topics unrelated to the game, or inquiries about what’s on tap for next season.
Enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend and remember why we celebrate this day every year.
Bird’s-Eye View is a Kalamazoo Wings blog, written by the team’s Director of Public Relations/Broadcaster John Peterson twice weekly. The thoughts, opinions and behind-the-scenes stories are that of the writer alone and not a reflection of the organization as a whole. Fans are welcome to submit questions and ideas for future blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy!