Walleye cement place in Toledo communityWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re a week away from the start of the Toledo Walleye regular season, and two weeks away from the puck dropping at the Huntington Center. That means crowds Downtown, the sound of skates on ice, and the Boyer Horn sounding when the team puts one past the goalie, all to the sounds of that “T-Town Hockey” song.
I’ve had an interesting relationship with the team. Well, this iteration of the team. I’d made it to my fair share of games at the old Toledo Sports Arena, but I was completely understanding about the need to get a new barn for the team. When the new team was announced, though, I wasn’t totally sold on the new image. Blue and gold? Toothless cartoon fish? To be brutally honest, I liked the Toledo Bullfrogs’ (the unfortunately short-lived and never-fielded arena football team) name and colors more than those given to the hockey team.
I was convinced that the new owners, the Mud Hens, were so focused on being family friendly that they would lose sight of what we know as Toledo hockey. I told myself that I’d go to the games, but I probably wouldn’t become a fan of the Walleye.
But ever since attending the opener in 2009, I’ve fallen for the team. Partly because it’s hard for me to not enjoy a hockey game. But slowly, the organization started to “get” hockey. Yes, they still operate a family-friendly operation, and do it well. My kid is constantly asking to go to games, and we make it probably two or three times a season. But the team is not sacrificing its history to make that happen. The “real fish” third jersey is a thing of beauty, and provides a jersey an adult can wear without feeling embarrassed. Merch with “Hit Somebody!” shows a semiofficial acceptance of the old-school fanbase.
And I’m not the only one, either. While the team has had community support from the get-go, it’s actually grown through the years as people discover what a night at the Huntington Center is: fun, inexpensive and a source of hometown pride.
Most Toledoans couldn’t tell you who’s on the roster, or the team’s record, but they can tell you about enjoying a heck of a game and getting a picture with Spike.
For the hardcore hockey fans, you do get to put early eyeballs on players that could be on their way up. Being affiliated with both the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks certainly helps: both programs have won Stanley Cups thanks to strong farm systems , which means getting bodies on the ice that have NHL potential.
Next year will mark the five-year anniversary of the program, but already the team has cemented its place as a hallmark of the community. After an attendance drop-off in the team’s second year, the numbers have steadily improved, averaging 6,298 a game in the 2012-13 season. But the Huntington Center holds more than 7,000, so there’s still room for improvement.
That means there’s room for you and your family to fall in love with the team. Trust me on that — it’s inevitable.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director for 1370 WSPD. Email him at email@example.com.