One Home, One Road, One Break (for some)

The HERSHEY BEARS staff enjoyed their first visit and skate on the Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic rink last Wednesday. Photo by Maria Stouffer.

Like Christmas morning when we were young – after hours upon hours of enjoying toys and games that were left under the tree – the fun ends, decorations and gifts are packed away, and the excitement of the most fun one could have all year just fades into normalcy.

Until next year.

The Capital BlueCross AHL Outdoor Classic is now in the history books.  And for all of us here with the HERSHEY BEARS and Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, it was go, go, go, go, go – have fun – brave the wind and cold – and BAM, just like that, it’s over.

Except, with an event like we just had, there will not be a “next year.”  We advertised this as a once-in-a-lifetime event and it might have been just that.  The cost and planning is exorbitant for such an awesome undertaking.  But the rave reviews (despite the outcome of the game) hint that maybe – just maybe – it will be shorter than a lifetime until we see the rink back up at HERSHEYPARK Stadium.

Of course, the rink is actually still there.  A locally-run tournament and public skating will take up the rink’s time for several more days.  But for professional hockey to return, it will be a little while.

While I have the chance (and if you dislike Emmy-Award-like thanks, scroll down) there are so many thanks that need to go out.  Gratitude goes first and foremost to Jim Hartnett and the gang from EIS Rinks for the entire setup.  But, our operations crew of Rod Underkoffler, Dan Strawhecker and Rick Weimer and all of the “Rink Rats” – under the cooperation and guidance of our President / General Manager Doug Yingst – deserve the utmost praise and respect for all they went through.  Rod, Dan, Rick, Jim and the rink crew had months of meetings, contract signings, deliveries, and 26-hour days to deal with.  Not to mention a 40-mph wind gust just after morning skate on Sunday that plucked the styrofoam ice protection right off the surface, threw lawn chairs around the Stadium, and took out some glass behind the benches – five hours before faceoff.

Many thanks also to our marketing guru Andy Longenberger; our corporate sales team of Brian “Butchy” Bucciarelli, Kelly Ferrara and Deb Ellenberg; to our ticketing department for filling the Stadium; Maria Stouffer for all of her work on the Alumni Game day/night; Kathleen McGraw, Melissa Stradnick, Kaylee Dugan, Kathy Burrows and Rachel Dinbokowitz for the help at the media gate; Jason White, Matt Bennett, Tom Ward and the plethora of security who ran the event so smoothly; the entire ABC-27 crew including my broadcast partner Gregg Mace for all of the outstanding coverage; to my color man Randy “Rock” Johnson, Hall of Famer Mitch Lamoureux and Jim “Jonesy” Jones for covering the radio side; to Aaron “Hank” Henry, Dan Suereth and Great Save Productions for the tremendous game night work; and to our players, coaches Mark French & Troy Mann, trainer Beaker Stuck and equipment manager Justin Kullman for putting family-like fun into the Classic.  Lastly, to my sweetheart Rae Decker, who came to Hershey from home and spent the entire weekend in the press box waiting for all of my endless work to finish up – I love you, dear.

WAY too many people need to be included here.  And now it’s time to move on to the upcoming events: a home game Friday, a road game Saturday, then the break spanning the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic.

The St. John’s IceCaps are in town – the middle of four games in six nights – and fresh off of a 3-0 setback to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who have now taken third place in the East Division (seventh place in the Eastern Conference) away from the BEARS with their fifth straight win.  It’s looks like our foes up the road, by the way, have been busy (Enter Tom Kostopoulous, Mark Eaton and Chad Kolarik into the mix, and exit Carl Sneep and Benn Ferriero).

The BEARS dropped a 3-2 decision to the IceCaps at GIANT Center back on November 10, then went up to the Rock and allowed just one goal in two games, sweeping a tough pair of contests at Mile One Centre on December 11-12.  Braden Holtby was the king of that trip, so the BEARS need to find a way to get their offense back and resume the solid defense of the third-best team in the AHL (2.41 goals/game average).

It is also the last home game before the All-Star Weekend in Providence, RI.  The BEARS final test before the “break” will be in the toughest building in the league, statistics-wise.  The small ice surface of the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena (along with solid play, of course) has helped the Binghamton Senators rack up 15 wins at home, a number that is equal to Abbotsford for the most in the AHL.

Why do I put “break” in quotes?  Obviously, for BEARS forward Jeff Taffe and several others, it means a trip to Providence for the skills competition on Sunday and the All-Star game on Monday.  Then a trip home on Tuesday (or late Monday night).  Wednesday will be their break – it is a mandatory day off for the players.  Our team returns to practice at 1:00 PM on Thursday.  I will be heading to Providence to join in the TV broadcast that will be put together by the crew of NESN and Leafs TV – and I’m really honored and excited to do so.

Pre-game notes for Friday’s game between the BEARS and IceCaps will be up on the Glove and Blogger in the morning.



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