Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What a Season it Was

For the people of Connecticut, hockey has always been a sport that is close to the heart of the state. When the Hartford Whalers were here the state had a professional sports team they could call their own. However years have passed since those Whalers came out onto the ice at the Hartford Civic Center (for the young ones, the XL Center).

The city of Danbury, CT has held host to a few hockey organizations over the last half decade and has seen each one of them come and go. It was because of this that a little skepticism about a new league called the Federal Hockey League and a new organization, the Danbury Whalers, was raised. However the fans of Danbury embraced the new organization and found they were embraced as well. 

For those who do not know the recent result of the Whalers' season, it ended on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, NY after losing in overtime in the fifth and deciding game of the first round playoff series against the New York Aviators. Despite losing some of the best players to injury, the team stuck through to the end but fell just short.

However, this loss should not be the face of the season. If anything, this season was one to remember in Danbury on several fronts. Starting at the top it was clear this organization was serious about doing business in Danbury and being apart of the community. CEO Herm Sorcher came in and immediately established a credibility with the fans of Danbury and quickly earned their respect. I still remember being at the press conference a little over a year ago and seeing Herm officially announce the club in Danbury with tears in his eyes and with choked up words. It was there that I and the rest of the fans in Danbury knew this man was serious about his job and his objectives. 

Herm's passion and perseverance for making this organization successful was evident in every sort of communication I had with him. He began to surround himself with people he knew would share in his passion and brought in Chris Firriolo as the first head coach of the team. A man with plenty of hockey experience, Chris came in and immediately went to work finding talent for the team that would not only fit his style of hockey but also the blue-collar work ethic of the city of Danbury. 

The whole season was an absolute roller-coaster ride for the fans but it was filled with many more ups and downs. Danbury finished at the top of the league in terms of a home record going 21-5-1 and, thanks to the fans of Section 102, the Zoo Crew, and the rest of Danbury had the highest attendance by far in the league, averaging 1,733 fans a night...almost tripling the second place New York Aviators who averaged 602. 

I personally only attended one game during the season due to my schooling. I knew that the team had been doing well at the gate and was expecting an excellent turn out but I was still amazed at the sight. Almost 2,000 screaming fans cheered on the Whalers with a fervor that reminded me of some playoff games I have been to. The first time I heard Brass Bonanza and the subsequent "Lets Go Whalers" chant chills were sent down my spine as I reminisced for just a brief moment of being back at the Civic Center. The taunting by Section 102 and the Zoo Crew was infectious and got the crowd going as the Whalers flew up and down the ice. I was very impressed with what I saw and was so happy to see that the Whalers were doing well after months of hard work by the organization. 

While at school, I checked the results of every game and began to see the team take shape as some familiar hockey faces like Nick Niedert, Igor Karlov, and Chris Seifert led the way and new names like Alec Kirschner, Martin Moucha, and Leland Fidler rose to the top of the scoring charts for the team. Corey Fulton came to Danbury as just another name on the roster and ended up becoming a fan favorite who scored his first professional hockey goals. I followed some of the games online and jumped out of my desk chair a few times when the team scored in overtime to win a big game, like Game 3 against the Aviators. 

With the season over, I am sure plenty of people are saddened by losing that last game in a tough way but its gives every Danbury fan hope for next season. The Federal Hockey League is looking to expand and the Whalers will certainly look to go much further next season and beyond that

The success of the season is a credit to everyone involved both inside and out. So here is to Herm, Chris, the rest of the front office, coaches, and staff, the players, and the fans for an absolutely outstanding season. It lifted the hearts and passions of the city of Danbury and surely will be a fixture in the city of Danbury for a long time. 

To quote The Bravery:

So give me something to believe
Cause I am living just to breathe
And I need something more
To keep on breathing for
So give me something to believe

Well Danbury, Herm and the rest of the Whalers have certainly given you something to believe and they will give you something more next year when the Whalers come back ready to go all the way. 

For a look at the season highlights put together by the team click here