EVANSVILLE, IN – As we close in on the trading deadline for the ECHL, it’s time for many fans to accept that some of their favorites are moving on to new destinations. When your team is “buying” at the trading deadline, there’s an air of excitement as your team pushes either for a playoff spot or for a deep run in the playoffs. When you live in Evansville, you expect your team to sell. Currently sitting in last place of the Midwest Division, there’s very little reason to believe that the playoffs are probable or even plausible. So it’s time to say goodbye to some of the boys of winter.
Adding to the reality that this season will not end in success is the parallel that the team is also getting ready to say goodbye. The Evansville IceMen only have seven home games remaining. Seven more games before the arena officially goes dark on “our team” and “our house.” Yes, there will be a new tenant next year at the Ford Center, but it’s going to be different. I’m not saying different bad or different good, just different. Much like your team of choice may be different after Thursday.
I remember my first IceMen game back at Swonder Ice Arena. I took my 9 year old sister-in-law and we watched the game. She had no idea what was going on, but that didn’t matter. The game being played was irrelevant, but the game mattered ever so much. Over the years we have been to lots of games together. She’s grown into a young woman now who still sits next to me at the games. As always, the game itself is not nearly as important as being at the game is.
For those of you that bring your family, your friends, coworkers, significant others (whoever) to the game, you know that the game is often far more important than the game. If you’re still confused by what I mean, I’ll spell it out for you: the time that we get to spend bonding over hockey is often far more important than any particular outcome on a given night.
As years tick off the calendar, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a couple of little ones of my own. I took my own daughter to the game on Sunday night. We sat there and she took in as many of the sights as a 22 month old is going to tolerate. She also has a firm handle on ringing her cowbell. Being a natural cowbell ringer bodes well for her in her future years. You never know when that’s going to come in handy. She had a blast and smiled a good chunk of the time.
Saturday night I’m taking her back to the Ford Center and she’s going to participate in baby races during one of the intermissions. What does that mean? Who knows. Will she ever remember it? Probably not. Daddy will remember it though. Not only will daddy remember it, I suspect she’s going to have a blast doing it. That’s why hockey matters. That’s why your team matters. That’s why it doesn’t matter if your team is buying or selling.
Players will come and players will go. In Evansville’s case, not only are we getting ready to say goodbye to some players, we are preparing to say goodbye to a team. None of it can take your memories, your friendships or your experience.
Best of luck at the trading deadline. It may be different after Thursday, but it’s still game on.