I will admit to shedding a tear when the Ice Gorilla went home

But only one, damn it. That’s all I will admit to!

After a rather somber and–dare I say it?–poignant start to the evening, the 2012-2013 Crunch certainly got things started with a bang last night. All 6,400-plus in attendance definitely got a show that one could say was 19 years in the making.

Opening Night for the Crunch is usually an exciting time no matter the year or the affiliation. Nineteen years ago, it was the start of something new, something that most people didn’t think would make five years let alone one shy of twenty. Seven years ago, it was the start of something new for me, attending the Opening Night of a sport that I had only come to love a few months previous. Five years ago, it was the start of what would be the best season in Crunch recent history, ending with a team that went on a fifteen game winning streak and to two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs. Two years ago, it was the start to what was supposed to be a new era of Crunch hockey.

Last night, we saw yet another “new era” of hockey in Syracuse come into being with a flash of lightning and a rumble of a crowd that’s one of the largest the War Memorial has ever seen. With a true sellout of almost 6,500, the brand new Syracuse Crunch needed to put on a show worthy of the crowd. Lockout years have historically been profitable ones for AHL teams, so with a new East Cost affiliation in the house, everything needed to go well to potentially keep the crowds near that amount as the season goes on.

I’d say the team succeeded, from pretty much every angle. We were certainly entertained from start to finish:

  1.  The team came out to one of the biggest pre-game crowds I’ve ever seen. People got there early. Practice was fun to watch as fans got their first true look at our new team. Names and numbers were memorized and discussed. Many fans–including this one–were already sporting band new jerseys, fresh out of the box just that night. That festive atmosphere never seemed to fade.
  2. The goodbye to Al the Ice Gorilla was obviously very rehearsed and seemed to go off without a hitch. It was good to see Al one last time, and it was a fitting farewell to a friend that has seen the Crunch through two affiliations, countless games, and several playoff appearances.
  3. The introduction of the new mascot was as entertaining as it was meant to be. And that’s all I’m going to say.
  4. As the Crunch introduced our new team, each of the guys were escorted out onto the ice by members of the armed forces, police departments, and fire departments. It was a touching scene to see our heroes out there on our blue line next to the real heroes who keep us all safe. Very well-done moment by Syracuse, and one that won’t soon fade from my memory.
  5. As the game got started, the talent out there was clearly evident from start to finish. Although the team ran into penalty trouble again last night–something I’m told is kind of just par for the course for this group–they had the bang to back it up. The goals were gorgeous, the game was one of the fastest I’ve ever seen, and everyone got tough when things got rough. Those are the things that will earn our hearts!
  6. The night was capped off by a very well done Shootout Show in the basement of the Memorial. A bigger crowd than we’ve seen since Joe Brown ran the Show into the ground three years ago was present to welcome new announcer Dan D’Uva and new Crunch captain Mike Angelidis. Autographs were had, great questions were asked and answered, and the ebb and flow of conversation was almost exactly what many of us had come to love and expect from Bobby Mac back in the day. If you’re reading this as someone still skeptical of what the Show had become, I can tell you that it’s back to its original post-game fun. Give it another chance! Dan deserves it.

Although I was personally disappointed to see that the obstructed view in section 23 STILL hasn’t been addressed despite several promises that it will be, there was nothing else about the night that left me dissatisfied. It felt absolutely amazing to be back home, and it was a fitting welcome to a new and promising organization! I hope Tampa was as impressed with the presentation as we were. I think we all felt that this really is the start of something special. Cup or not this year, I’d love it if this would last longer than the three years promised right now.

I’ll be reviewing the new jerseys this week sometime. I love ‘em! Crunchman certainly works on the front, and the team obviously put a lot of thought into the design. I also love the details on the players’ uniforms. The bolts on their shorts were an especially nice touch. Everything just seemed to come together, and of course getting the big “W” was a rather nice topping to an already sweet cake!

Welcome to Syracuse, boys. Here’s hoping for a long stay!

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