Hello! My name is Andrew and I have recently joined The Sin Bin team to cover the South Carolina Stingrays. I wanted to give our readers an idea of who I am before I get in to my hockey coverage. I hope you enjoy and it inspires some memories of your own.
It began about 21 years ago at 5 am on a Saturday morning. It was time to head to my brother’s hockey practice. I used to be a fixture in that locker room and I remember the guys messing around and having fun with me. That was cool and all but three-year-old me was most fascinated by the Zamboni. Such an amazing machine I HAD to drive one when I grew up. I could identify all the different Zambonis from every rink we went to. I loved the experience of practices so much that I once got very upset when my dad left me to sleep in for a 5 am practice. I never missed a practice again after that.
My playing career started seven years later as a short but speedy blue liner. I couldn’t really play defense well but I could keep the puck in the offensive zone like nobody’s business. I was not a scorer by any means but when I finally found the net one of my teammates got so excited that he skated halfway across the ice and tackled me. It was this pure joy that made playing the game so great. I grew to really love hockey the more I played. My weekends were spent driving to rinks all over Maryland, Washington and Virginia. I played on teams that won championships and ones that went winless. My high school team was so bad that before a game against the best team, coach said he’d buy us pizza if we didn’t get mercy ruled (10-goal lead). That night, the other team put up nine goals against us. It was probably the only time that a team has ever been thrown a pizza party for a 9-0 loss.
Growing up in a Virginia suburb of Washington D.C. made it easy to become a rabid Washington Capitals fan. My family watched every game either on television or in person. Verizon Center became a home away from home in the winter. I loved the sound of the “Horn Guy” leading the “Lets Go Caps!” chant and hearing the absurdly loud goal horn. I had to get there in time for warm-ups and I had to have my chicken tender and fries combo. Looking back, my mother told me “there was a time at a Caps game when you looked up from eating your chicken strips and fries and said ‘life just doesn’t get any better than this!’” I still have my tickets from just about every game I ever went to.
When I was old enough to drive I began going to the team’s practices in Arlington. I could identify each player’s car in the parking lot. Sometimes I’d have to go down a couple levels in the parking garage to find everybody’s car. I once saw Donald Brashear dent his brand new Cadillac Escalade by slamming it in to a pole while backing out. I had to turn away because I was laughing uncontrollably and was afraid he’d get out and knock me out.
My dream has always been to work in the front office of the Capitals and I’ve spent my post-graduate life pursuing that dream. I’ve bounced around between Virginia, Charleston, Colorado and then back to Charleston. I had the pleasure of working for a season with the South Carolina Stingrays (affiliate of the Capitals). My boss knew how big of a Capitals fan I was. When Olaf Kolzig, who is now on the coaching staff, came down to visit, my boss took me to meet and take pictures with one of my childhood heroes. That was just the beginning of a season that turned out to be quite a ride.
The Stingrays set an ECHL record by winning 23 games in a row. The Rays then turned that success in to a deep Kelly Cup Playoffs run. Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals against Toledo was probably one of the best games that I’ve ever seen. I still get chills listening to our broadcaster’s call of the triple overtime goal that sent South Carolina to the Kelly Cup Finals. Our owners paid for the entire office staff to go to Allen, TX to watch Game 7 of the Kelly Cup finals. We got to ride the charter flight with the players and spend the weekend in Texas. It was a trip to remember other than the 6-1 defeat at the hands of the Allen Americans. I didn’t have an effect on the outcome of the game but it still hurt as though I was out there. It gives you some idea of what it is like to get that far and come up short.
I’ve moved on from the Stingrays, but I just couldn’t leave Charleston. I know the team and the area well and I hope you will enjoy my passion and love for the game as I give my perspective of the Stingrays. I look forward to many more stories on this ride. Please feel free to share your hockey story.