INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– It was rainy and it was cold. While most people were preparing for the day of nation-wide gluttony, I was sitting in press row at an Indy Fuel hockey game. While most of the country was either traveling or putting the finishing touches on what would be their Thanksgiving meal, but I was enjoying an all-you-could-eat menu of hot dogs, nachos and cheeseburgers ahead of the Fuel’s match against the Kalamazoo Wings .
The attendance of the match surprised me, topping out at 3,245. But what surprised me even more was the all-you-could-eat menu. This may have been because it was the night before Thanksgiving and was the team’s way of saying ‘Thank You’ to it’s fans and supporters, or it was the Fuel’s way of getting rid of food before the expiration date. Either way, it was okay with me.
As someone who has been to multiple hockey matches in the last year and had the high expectations of more fights breaking out than goals being scored, this match up between the Wings and Fuel was moderately clean with Indy taking a 5-3 victory by night’s end. In all, just five penalties were given in the three periods of skate.
In all, four members of the Indy Fuel squad scored goals throughout the night: Kevin Lynch, Marek Tvrdon, Matt Rupert and Alex Wideman. Wideman assisted with two of the goals.
Earlier in the week, Wideman had been named Player of the Week. As this tweet suggests, everyone wanted to know how he was keeping his streak of scoring 10 points in the last four games going. Wideman was modest in his answer, saying he owed it to his teammates and that he was just out there having fun.
Wideman and his squad weren’t the only one’s having fun in the pre-Thanksgiving game. Even the IndyFuel Twitter account was having fun. Throughout the night, all in attendence also enjoyed themselves, with music, intermission activities and everybody’s favorite ‘Kiss Cam’. Even Nitro, the Fuel’s mascot, was entertaining as always.
All of this year’s success and the team atmosphere may have something to do with the Fuels head coach Bernie John. This is John’s first full season with the Fuel. He has been with the Fuel since the inaugural season. But before coming to Indianapolis, John spent 13 years playing professional hockey, which included five years with the CHL’s Indianapolis Ice from 1999 to 2004.
With his familiarity of being in Indianapolis and having played the game for so long, John has been influential this season. In the post-game interviews after the game, John said his group of guys is having fun and enjoying themselves. But he also said they remain physical, as “hockey is the most physical game.”
While they don’t pose the best record in the ECHL (8-9-1-1, ranking sixth in the Western Central division), the team continues to draw in crowds and make events like the Kalamazoo match exciting and fun. I, for one, enjoyed my pre-turkey day hockey game.