Also known as: Your hockey team is locked out and you desperately need a hockey fix. Unfortunately, you live in South Florida so the Juniors or the AHL are not really options. Also, everyone knows the Solar Bears suck so you decided to back a winner.
I know you guys, it sucks more than biting your tongue… after you’ve already bit it twice before. I’ll miss my trips to Sunrise and Tampa more than anything. However, it’s not as though hockey season is a total wash for me (or you). Florida happens to be home to two minor league teams, the Florida Everblades (yay!) and the Orlando Solar Bears (boo!).I might be biased toward the Everblades, my hometown team, but they really are better (and they don’t wear a hideous color like teal). Since I’m going to assume you’ve decided to make the wise decision and back a winner, I’m going to give you all the best tips and tricks you’ll need to be the very best Everblades fan you can be.
First, some important links:
– A quick look at some basic Blades info.
– The team’s website.
– The arena’s website.
– My list of Everblades players (current and former) on Twitter.
– Basic info on the ECHL from Wikipedia.
– More from HockeyDB.
– The Leagues website.
Next, logistical stuff:
– The Arena is located just off of I-75 (so close you can actually see the arena from the Interstate). It’s about a two and a half hour trip from Tampa or Sunrise, and I recommend getting off at exit 123, Corkscrew Road. It’s the quickest and easiest route and reduces the amount of mind-numbingly stupid traffic.
– The arena sits right next to a large outlet mall, and many choose to park there, eat and then walk to the arena. I’m sure some people park there to save themselves the $5 charge for parking too.
– There are plenty of food stands in the arena. The stands are operated by local groups (youth sports teams mostly) that get a cut of the profits from their sales during the night. They sell typical arena food as well as some more unusual fare, wraps, make your own nachos, etc.
– There are plenty of restaurants nearby as well. On top of the restaurants at the nearby outlet, there are also many located in Gulf Coast Town Center and a bit further away at Coconut Point, and several chain and fast food places in between.
– There are also plenty of bars for post-game fun around. Any regular Blades fan under 50 could probably recommend a good place.
– Just like any place in Florida near an Interstate exit, there are tons of hotels nearby so it should be pretty easy to find one.
Also, there are also plenty of touristy things to do if you want make a mini-vacation out of your visit here.
– Ive already mentioned the excellent shopping opportunities so, no need to repeat myself.
-I recommend Sanibel /Captiva island for the natural beaches, National Park, and low-key atmosphere (there is a toll to get to the island and into the national park). Ft. Myers Beach and Vanderbilt Beach are nice as well, but get a little congested and hard to navigate.
-If you like a bit of history, you have to check out Koreshan State Park to hear all about the zany cult that used to call Estero home. You can also check out the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in nearby Ft. Myers, and maybe check out the downtown River District while you’re there.
– There’s also other things like manatee tours (or visit the park), fishing charters, kayaking tours, swamp tours, etc (basically all the outdoorsy water related stuff you’d expect down here).
– If you’re coming from the East across Alligator Alley you should check out some of the Seminole Tribes attractions.
– The Red Sox and Twins call Ft. Myers home for spring training (if, god forbid, the lockout lasts that long), and a few other MLB teams are in nearby cities. The Ft. Myers Miracle also play minor league ball at Hammond Stadium.
But enough of that, the real stuff you need to know is how to fit in with your fellow Blades fans, and all the secret tips and tricks, right?
– Obviously, wearing anything blue or green is a safe bet. They will be throwing free Everblades t-shirts into the crowd like any respectable team would. There is one pro shop, located between the recreational rinks and two stands selling team branded merchandise. There is also a table with all the marked down merchandise next to the box office. I’ve picked up some cheap jerseys there.
– We started throwing plastic alligators on the ice after wins during the playoffs (much like your rats Panthers fans). Lord knows if we will be allowed to keep that tradition up, but the team did start selling gators at their stands, so maybe we will be allowed to keep the tradition as long as the Blades are making a profit.
– There really aren’t any bad sight lines that I know of. Some seats in the middle of the corner rows are weirdly smaller than the others. Club level seating and below have cushioned seats with cup holders. Anything above club level is hard plastic with no cup holder.
– I’ve found all the ushers to be nice and very helpful. They’re pretty good about enforcing arena rules too.
– Along those lines: you are not allowed to pound on the glass, you can not set your drinks on the boards if you’re in the first row, and they are pretty strict about enforcing seating.
– You might want to bring a cowbell (or buy one at the souvenir stands). Yes, we are those kinds of fans, but now you are too.
– Appropriate moments to ring your cowbell: Killed penalties, powerplays, goals, great saves… you know what? We really just ring those things any time we’re given a reason. Maybe you should take an aspirin before the game.
– Our mascot is Swampee, he’s an oddly muscular alligator. He’s not bad as mascots go and he loves getting his picture taken. Yes, we have ice girls. They’re called the Everbabes. They used to do dance numbers but didn’t last season. No idea if they’re bringing that back or not.
– Puck drop is usually at the time listed. with warm-ups being a half hour before puck drop. You are allowed to be down by the ice during warm-ups. The guys last season were pretty good about tossing pucks to kids once the majority of warm-ups were over.
– I’ve had no issues using my DSLR and 200mm lens in the three years I’ve been taking it to games and I’ve seen video cameras out as well.
– The following players are considered gods within Germain Arena: Tom Buckly, Reggie Berg, and Ernie Hartlieb. The first two have their numbers retired. Ernie’s will be retired this season. Any Everblade who has made it to the NHL is also pretty well respected.
– It’s also pretty fair to say that all the players (and the coaches) from the Kelly Cup winning squad are beloved as well. Specifically Brandon MacLean (the player who scored the goal in overtime that won the Blades the cup), John Muse (the MVP and major reason they won), and Mathieu Roy (the team’s captain).
– After goals, the team plays the always classic “Rock and Roll part 2″ by Garry Glitter. We then chant “We’re gonna beat the heck out of you! You! You!”.
– Both the fan club and youth teams raffle off Blades goodies during games. The fan club usually has a signed jersey, stick or photo at their tables. Though they like to mix it up and sometimes and give away really unusual stuff. The youth teams usually have a game worn jersey. They don’t usually appear on weekdays (it is a school night), but are easy to spot on Friday and Saturday games walking the concourse with a parent and a sign. The raffle tickets are drawn at the end of the second and announced during the third.
– Like any good fan base we do not like our division rivals, and games against them (especially Greenville and Gwinnet) can get pretty rough (and rowdy). The Orlando Solar Bears are new, but I’m sure they’ll be just as hated, if not more so.
– The Greenville Road Warriors, Elmira Jackals, and Kalamazoo Wings will all have an axe to grind after being destroyed by the Blades in the playoffs (they were undefeated at home during the playoffs, by the way). They swept the Road Warriors, and beat both Elmira and Kalamazoo 4-1. Needless to say, they’ll come to town with something to prove.
– After the games be sure to head up to Breakaways, the restaurant in the arena (you can also sit up there during games, but you have to reserve those ahead of time). You take the elevator across from the pro shop to get there. You can meet the players and get autographs there. It’s also open before games, but they won’t sit you if it’s close to game time.
– The players do get a post-game meal up there too. Don’t be the jerk that interrupts them when they’re eating. Just don’t. They always make time to talk to fans so you will get your chance.
– I believe there’s also an open skate held on one of the recreational rinks after games, so if that’s your thing, there you go.
That’s all the important stuff I could think of, but I’m sure I’ve missed something. If you have any questions you can shoot me an email at SwampHockey@gmail.com or find me here on Twitter.
Also, please leave any of your tips in the comments Blades fans.