It’s the holiday season...and Santa Tux is comin’ round...
OK, maybe not. But it is the holidays, the time for family to gather together and exchange gifts. So as the WBS Penguins enjoy this week off for the holidays sitting pretty atop the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference, and AHL standings with a 19-5-3 record through 27 games, I present to you now my Christmas list...a list of five things that I want from the WBS Penguins for this season, as well as a few things that fellow WBS fans have expressed to me that they want.
You’ll find that at times, these lists overlap.
We’ll start with some requests that have been passed along to me. While I consider the fan experience at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza to be a good time on game nights, there are always things that can be improved. To that end, Twitter user @thememanxx requested to me that we get more food tables in the concourses. This is a great idea, as there are precious few standing areas outside the concession stands for fans to indulge in their purchases before retreating to their seats. I’ve been to GIANT Center in Hershey, and there are plenty of tables for fans that are always filled.
Also on @thememanxx’s lists: Chicken cheesesteaks from Chickie’s and Pete’s and lower beer prices. The idea of chicken cheesesteaks from the Philly-based institution intrigues me, but lower beer prices? Eh...I don’t drink. Have at it.
(He also requested more freely flowing traffic after games, but I’m not a miracle worker.)
In discussions with one of my best WBS friends, @lenofi, she expressed to me a great request...more media segments with the players. Things like question-and-answer sessions, the occasional bit of silliness...anything to better show the personalities of the players behind the jerseys. I love this idea, and not just because it feeds into one of my requests later on. Creating an attachment on a more personal level with the players, even though they may not be here forever due to future trades or callups, would create an incentive for people to come out and support the team.
And now, for my list.
5) A fully paved parking lot.
Also requested by @thememanxx, this has been a point of contention for me since they first started paving the lot several years ago. The parking lot is currently about 75% paved, with the parking attendants doing everything they can on game nights to park cars on the paved sections instead of the unpaved sections so as to avoid the ice and mud of the seasons.
Come on, team. Come on, arena. It’s a very bad look to have a partially paved lot and end up with the upper portion of the lot covered in ice and the rest relatively clean. See if you can do something to gather up the funds necessary to finish the paving. It’s been 17 years now.
4) A new goal song.
(Also suggested by @povilitus on Twitter.)
Within the last few weeks and months, the team has started to edge back to the goal song it first used when it came into the league in 1999. I don’t think I really need to explain why a song written by an individual who has done this shouldn’t be used by a family friendly organization.
Seriously. Enough with The Hey Song. Ditch the Glitter. Go into the hard drives where you keep all the really good music you use on game nights, find that song, and wipe it. There are thousands of songs written in history that would be better suited to celebrate goals. Such as this one. Or, you tried Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talking About Love” a couple of years ago; go back to that. Or how about this one, despite the fact the Flyers used to use it. You could even consider going exclusively to “Party Hard” like your parent franchise does. But please, I’m begging you...change the song, and Don’t Look Back. (Hey, there’s another idea.)
3) Jake Guentzel and Oskar Sundqvist, here, for as long as possible.
This is probably a pipe dream, as since his return to WBS, Guentzel has dominated just about every game he’s played, and Sundqvist has started to put together the offense to complement his already stellar defensive game to make himself into a legitimate future center for the Stanley Cup Champions. Guentzel sits at 26 points through 22 games in the AHL this season, an average better than a point per game and leading all AHL rookies, while Sundqvist is only one point behind at 25 through 25 games, besting his entire point total from 2015-16 in less than half the games. Both are not long for this league, and as my third Christmas request, I want to enjoy watching them for this franchise for as long as possible.
2) Bigger crowds at the home games.
And I want as many people as possible to come out to the games to see them as well.
We’ve got a banner hanging in the arena next to our various division and conference championship banners. It reads “2001-2002: AHL Record 39 Sellouts”.
Back in 2001, when WBS hosted the AHL All-Star festivities for the first and only time in our history, the current hockey play-by-play broadcaster for NBC Sports, Mike Emrick, served as master of ceremonies to introduce the lineups. On both occasions (Skills Competition on Sunday, game on Monday), Doc included in his opening remarks a request for hockey fans to come out to the then-relatively new building to watch hockey “if you can get a ticket to a game”. From 2000 to 2002, WBS sold out 54 straight games. From 2002 to 2004, they sold out 90.
From the heights of that, we’re now in a situation where on a “Fan Friday”, featuring $14 seats, $2 beers from doors opening at 6 pm until 7:30 pm (though not the craft beers; I’ve tried this), and the so-called “best rivalry in the AHL” (that’s what the game night program said), the game on December 9 against Hershey drew 4,733 fans. Approximately their average for the season, in a building that seats just over 8,000 now for hockey.
They’re the best team in the AHL, featuring the next generation of Penguins with two of the league’s brightest prospects on the marquee every single night. Come on out and see them, folks. Please.
1) This thing.
(Also suggested to me by both @rosemoczulski1 and @SinBinPhantoms, though in the case of the Sin Bin Phantoms, they’re likely going to be standing in the way come April.)
Just once, I want to see the stars align for this team. Just once, I don’t want to have to suffer the indignity of giving up six goals in 12 minutes in Philly to lose Game 6, exit the playoffs, and have then-coach Michel Therrien threatening jobs in the offseason. Just once, I want to have a team good enough to win the Kilpatrick Trophy for the league’s best regular season record, then convert that to the big prize in June instead of blowing a 3-0 lead in the last ten minutes AT HOME to flame out of the playoffs, then see the team sulk off the ice instead of salute the fans goodbye. Just once, I want to watch WBS raise the Calder Cup at home, rather than have to watch their opponents do it.
I said on this website last June that watching the prospects of WBS graduate to Pittsburgh and have them materially contribute to a Stanley Cup to be the next best thing to winning the Calder Cup. I stand by that. But just once, I want the best thing. After 14 playoff qualifications in 16 seasons, including the last 12 years in a row and three trips to the final (but none since 2008), it’s high time the fans in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton get their own big prize.
Make it happen this June. Or any June. Please.