A few weeks ago, I finally got myself to an AHL game. Specifically, Rockford Icehogs vs. Peoria Rivermen. For those (like me not so long ago) who don’t know, the Icehogs are the Chicago Blackhawks farm team and the Rivermen are the St. Louis Blues farm team. I invited a friend of mine, who actually grew up watching Rivermen games. Her mother also informed her that to get into the playoffs, the Rivermen had to win this game.
I decided to go to this game because of Danny Syvret, who was traded to the Blues/Rivermen last year from the Flyers/Phantoms. I spend time on Broad Street Hockey as well as over here and there is an abounding love for DSOD (Danny Syvret Offensive Dynamo) over there. So I had to go. For the AHL experience and for DSOD.
The Icehogs are bad this season. I was told this by a very vocal, drunk Icehogs fan. He realized soon that my friend and I were rooting for the Rivermen and joked with us, but said if anyone bothered us, he’d be there. I told him that I was a Flyers fan and was used to persecution. He laughed. The crowd was decently large for AHL game and vocal. It was, almost like being at an NHL game.
Icehogs scored first, but by the third period, Rivermen had a one goal lead. It was tense. I didn’t know the players, just #25 Syvret, but it was tense. It’s hockey that makes you excited, not just the team or the players. Just the game. With four seconds left on the clock, Icehogs tied the game, sending the teams into overtime.
I had no idea there were five rounds of shootouts in the AHL. Rivermen won the first two, Icehogs the last three. Icehogs won, but one point was enough to send the Rivermen to the playoffs despite.
Since I only knew of Syvret, I watched him. He was out on every penalty kill, even laying on the ice to block a shot in the third. I felt proud to watch him play, despite never seeing him live before. There is an ownership when you claim a team. Even former players matter.
The hockey played on the AHL level is drastically different. I’m not a player, merely a fan, but I can see that the level of skill is night and day. The AHL players are still solid, but it struck me that to get into the NHL, a player has to be phenomenal. Even players that seem sub-par, that we fans yell at when they ‘suck’ are still incredible athletes.
It’s eye-opening to a newbie like me.
(all photos are mine, including the itty bitty player at the top)