Monday, February 21, 2011

Covelli Centre, Youngstown OH

Basic Information:
Team: Youngstown Phantoms (United States Hockey League)
Game: Phantoms vs Muskegon Lumberjacks-2/19/2011
Team Website: http://www.youngstownphantoms.com/
Ticket Information: (330) 747-PUCK
Tourism Information: (800) 447-8201 or http://www.youngstownlive.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.wbbw.com/
Local Newspaper: Youngstown Vindicator http://www.vindy.com/

Team History: The Youngstown Phantoms began play in the Tier 1 United States Hockey League in 2003, playing their games at the Ice Zone in nearby Boardman. In 2009. after the Youngstown Steelhounds of the Central Hockey League ceased operations, the Phantoms moved into the downtown Covelli Centre. The Phantoms, originally known as the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, are owned by Bruce Zoldan, CEO of the Phantom Fireworks company.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened with a concert by Three Doors Down on October 29, 2005, the Covelli Centre has gone through three names in it's short history. Originally known during planning and construction as the Youngstown Convention Center, the building was renamed in November 2005 as the Chevrolet Centre, after General Motors acquired the naming rights for the building. GM has a large assembly plant in Lordstown, which is approximately 25 minutes from Youngstown. In 2009, Covelli Enterprises, who operate Panera Bread and O'Charley's restaurants in the area, acquired the naming rights, giving the building it's current name of the Covelli Centre.

On The Town: Located just between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, Youngstown has a population of approximately 75,000. Youngstown was created in 1797 when John Young, a native of New York who surveyed and settled in the area known as the Mahoning Valley. He purchased 16,000 acres of land, and incorporated in 1802. Young built a saw mill and a grist mill on the Mahoning River, and soon after, coal was discovered in the area, and during much of the 19th century, Youngstown soon became a hub of iron and steel manufacturing. However, the lack of diversity of industries led to an economic downturn in the second half of the 20th century led to hard times in the Valley. Happily, there is hope for new development in Youngstown, as some high-tech industries have moved into the city.

Getting There: From the Ohio Turnpike, exit at the I-80/I-76 split (exit 218). Proceed on I-80 eastward for approximately six miles to I-680. Take I-680 south for approximately six miles, exiting at Market St (exit 6B). Take Market St for a half mile, and make a right onto Front St. The arena will be on your right.

Nearby Airport: Since Youngstown is approximately halfway between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, either airport would work. Both are approximately an hour and a half from downtown Youngstown.

What To Do Before The Game: My trip didn't allow me any time for sightseeing, so if you're looking for something to do in the area, contact the area visitors bureau.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Linda and I visited the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, which was located on Market St near the Covelli Centre. Originally when I called the restaurant, the young lady who I spoke with said that it was "about two blocks" away from the arena. Well, it was a little farther than that (more like a half mile). If it was warmer or during the day, I would have probably left my car at the BW parking lot (parking there cost a buck), but since I have this aversion to frostbite, we figured we would just drive to the arena. The restaurant had it's usual fine fare and plenty of TV's, so we recommend it.

Where To Stay: We drove back to Parma after the game, so we didn't bother with checking for lodging possibilities. However, most of the larger chains are represented in the area, so I would check with your preferred hotel for locations in the area.

Ticket Prices: Phantoms ticket prices are as follows: $13.50 (blue), $11.50 (orange), and $9.50 (purple).

Parking: There a sufficiently large lot surrounding the Covelli Centre, and parking in that lot cost five dollars.

The Good Seats: While strolling around the arena prior to the game, I got the impression that the sightlines were good from just about every angle. From top to bottom, Covelli Centre has somewhere in the area of 18 rows, so you're right on top of things no matter where you go. There is a standing area at the top of the arena behind each goal as well.

Getting In: There is a spacious lobby area which also hosts the box office.

Arena Food: I hate to say it, but Linda and I were too full after our trip to Buffalo Wild Wings to sample the food at the arena. However, I can report that there were only two main stands open: one concession stand and a stand that sold mixed drinks. In addition, there was a small cart selling soft drinks and Dippin Dots ice cream.

Concession prices at the Covelli Center are as follows:

Hot Dog: $3.00 Hamburger: $4.75 Nachos: $3.75 Draft Beer: $6.00 Pretzel: $2.75 Large Soda: $4.50 Dippin' Dots: $4.50 French Fries: $3.00 Pizza Slice: $4.25

Soft Drinks: The Covelli Centre pours Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: The Key Bank Team Store is located in the main concourse and sells a fairly large line of souvenir items.

Restrooms: There are restrooms located on the arena's main concourse. Although the facilities are "no frills", they are more than clean and servicable.

Mascot: "Sparky" is a very lively purple and orange dragon who participates in all of the team's in-game promotions as well as circulates in the crowd.

Dance Team: The Phantoms don't have a "dance team" per se, they have several attractive young ladies who help out by welcoming fans into the arena and assisting in in-game promotions.

Program: The Phantoms' excellent full-color game night program is a bargain at just $1.00.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: For a building of its size, the Covelli Centre has an outstanding scoreboard and sound system. There are two main scoreboards, each mounted along the side of the building at the center line. These scoreboards have a section which provides the standard in-game information and a large, crystal clear video screen. The video boards get more than just a little bit of use, showing game action, promotional advertisements, and humorous "shorts" which are shown when the puck is not in play. These boards are complimented by smaller boards hung over the ends of the arena, which provide game information and advertisements.

The team boasts an excellent public address announcer and good music selections. The arena's speakers and acoustics are top notch as well.

Arena Staff: To be honest, I really didn't see any. I also didn't see any team staff there. If there were, they were well hidden.

Atmosphere: For about a thousand people, they were fairly lively. The announcer and mascot did their best to get the fans motivated, but a lackluster performance by the home team kept the atmosphere to a lower level.

Overall: The Youngstown Phantoms were a very pleasant surprise for Linda and I. It was a very good value for the dollar (our total combined cash output was less than we spent for just tickets at the Lake Erie Monsters game the Saturday before). The hockey itself was fairly good, the arena was a gem, and the production values were as good or better than I've seen at higher levels of hockey this season. All in all, this will not be my last trip to the Covelli Centre for a fun, inexpensive night of hockey.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dad's Home Team

by Linda and Joan Ibbett

When my sister Joan and I planned our two week trip to the U.K. (England, Wales and Scotland) this past Fall, we really hoped to catch a couple of soccer games there. Now you would think that there would be tons of soccer games in the U.K. We assumed that there would be games all the time so that it would be easy to catch a few games while we were there. However, it seemed that the home teams were rarely playing in the cities we were visiting while we were there or that they would have a home game just before or after we left that city! Manchester United was playing at Liverpool the day we flew into London, but we figured we'd be too tired to drive up there for that game. Liverpool had a home game the day after we left. Dunfermline had a game a few days after we left. Glasgow Celtic didn't have any home games while we were in Scotland. Harrogate had the possibility of having a game while we were there, but due to the way another game went, they ended up playing on the road.

Luckily, we were able to catch a game in Luton, a suburb of London, on September 28, and this was the best game for my sister and I to catch. Now you're probably wondering why a Luton Town F.C. game would be the best game in all of England for two American soccer fans from Cleveland to see. Our Dad grew up in Luton. Growing up and as a young man, he ardently supported his hometown team. We never heard about this until after we had started traveling all around the U.S. following the original Cleveland Force MISL team. After a couple of years of our traveling, Dad mentioned that he used to hop a train and go to out of town games to follow Luton's team. Our Dad took us to our first indoor soccer game, at the Canton Civic Center to see the Canton Invaders in the old AISA, and he later became an ardent follower of the Cleveland Force. He would call home on his breaks at work to get updates on the Force games that we were watching on TV or listening to on the radio. Our Dad passed away many years ago. We had traveled to England in 1976 and 1978 with our parents, and my sister went again in 1985 to visit Dad's family. One of his sisters lived in Luton, so we were thrilled that there was a game there while we were visiting her this Fall. It was awesome to see our Dad's hometown team play! While visiting one of our cousins in Harrogate, he told us a story of having gone to a Luton game with our Dad back when my cousin was a young man. He said that our Dad was standing up and yelling disparaging things at the Luton team because they were not playing very well. My cousin was sure that they were both going to be killed because the home town fans were not impressed with our Dad's opinions, and my cousin swore to never attend a game with our Dad again! (Luckily, they both survived the game unharmed.) Our cousin later lived in Luton for a period of time and became an ardent follower of the team as well (and still follows them many years later).

Joan had checked with the hotel's front desk clerk and also called the team's office before the game and was told that parking around the stadium could be a problem. They suggested that we find parking in the City Center and then walk to the game and that this would be a 2 minute walk or a 10 minute walk, depending on who you asked. Our previous driving/parking experiences around the U.K. had shown us that parking spots are always ridiculously limited, and not being at all familiar with the area, we opted to take a cab. The cab ride took us through the center of town and then up a residential street (with cars parked on both sides of the street, leaving only one lane to drive thru. The cabbie dropped us off right in front of the stadium. We went to the ticket trailer to purchase our tickets. There were 3 ticket windows inside and a Will Call window outside. The lady who waited on us couldn't get over our "lovely accents". All adult tickets were 18 pounds each ($30). Our hotel front desk clerk, a Luton Fan whose father and grandfather were also Luton fans, had recommended we sit in the "home end" because there were fewer posts to look thru, and he said that area had "a great atmosphere". We took his advice.

After picking up our tickets, we headed to the merchandise trailer to buy some presents for Rich. We found a new road jersey, scarf and a game program. There were 2 food stands (trailers) outside the main entrance to the stadium, but we decided to eat inside. This turned out to be a mistake, as the trailers outside seems to have a wider selection of food items. A very nice policeman helped us find the correct entrance. He warned us that the food stands inside were a bit more expensive and that there was a "bar" down below but you can't take the alcohol to your seats. (The "bar" turned out to be a concession stand that sold beer; everyone had to stand around in the very small concourse area to finish their alcohol before they could head to their seats.) He also noted that you can come outside to smoke at halftime and to get something from the outside concession trailers. One of the stands outside had cheese burgers, beef burgers (as one of our English aunts told us when we were visiting England as children, they are not called "hamburgers" because that would be false advertising, since there's no ham in them), sausages, hot dogs and French fries. We didn't get to the other stand, but they seemed to have some additional items. The inside stands had a more limited selection, plus Pukka pies (2.50 pounds), mince and onion pies (mince is hamburger), steak pies and cheese and onion pasties (2 pounds), candy bars, hot dogs, "crisps" (potato chips) and bottled Coke products. As in most U.S. stadiums, they won't let you keep the lid for your bottle of pop.

I thought we would have been searched more thoroughly going into the game. The security guard looked in Joan's fanny pack and my merchandise bag but didn't care to look in my fanny pack or the backpack on my back. I guess two 40-something American tourist ladies don't look likely to be soccer Hooligans! Now this is not to disparage my sister, but Joan got stuck going through the turnstile. The turnstiles in the U.K. are ridiculously small, and I dare say a good portion of the American public would never get through them. The ticket takers took one look at me and offered to open the side door (which I gladly entered through)!

After our somewhat traumatic entrance, we headed in to find our seats. As I was writing notes for this article sitting in my seat, I remembered that the sales clerk has said she'd put us in the "Lower Stands" for a better view. I then realized that we'd found our row and seats but in the Upper Stands. I'd sent Joan off to take photos, so we moved when she got back. She brought me a steak Pukka pie, and she had a cheese and onion pie; both were piping hot and delicious! I've never met an English meat pie that I didn't like, but I was a little suspicious of the cheese and onion pie, but it was actually very good -- and the onions did not overpower the cheddar cheese. After finishing our pies, we moved down to our seats in the lower Terrace, 7 rows up from the field where there were no poles. We were about 6 seats over from the front side of the goal so we had a great view.

At 19:24 into the game, Joan pointed out to me..."There's no music and no announcements and no advertising over the PA system!". A group of visiting supporters were sitting in the opposite end zone. They took up about 2-1/2 sections and did make some noise/have their own cheers and banter back and forth with the home supporters standing in the upper side stands. There were three sections of empty seats between them, which I believe was intentional -- I counted 16 security people positioned between the two groups.

We had asked the ticket sales lady how many people the stadium seats, and she said about 10,200. We asked how many would be there that night, and she said about 6,000. It was really strange for us to see, but just about everyone was in their seats by the time the game kicked off. Not like our "fashionably late" arriving crowds in the U.S.! There were probably about 90% men, 10% women or 85%/15% and very few young children. The team does have a mascot, who was on the field before the game, but it was at the far end of the field, so I couldn't quite make out what it was. I don't know when the stadium was built, but it appears to have been there for a very, very long time. The concourse area reminded us of the old St. Louis Arena crossed with the Cincinnati Gardens Arena, only smaller. You can't walk around the entire concourse inside; if you're seated in a certain area you have a certain entrance you can use, and you can only access the concourse in that area. The restrooms were small (2 stalls in the ladies' room) and old (had the toilets with the tank above that you literally pull the chain to flush them -- the only place I can remember ever seeing a toilet like this was in my Grandmother's house in Luton back when I was 10 years old.) A lady we met in the restroom told us that if the team won that night, they would go from 7th place to 4th place.

You could tell that they had added 28 "loge" type areas in a concrete building down the one long side of the stadium. The outdoor seats in front of the loges are at least partially covered by roofing. The regular seating areas were on the two end zones and one sideline, covered by a rusting corrugated metal roof. You could tell that they had added 28 "loges" in a concrete building down the other side line of the stadium. From what I could see from my section the loge rooms looked pretty nice with TV's inside. Most everyone sat outside their loge in their private seating area and were intently watching the game (as opposed to a lot of U.S. sporting events where people just want to hang out inside the loge). This was something that was very strange for us, seeing a whole crowd that was intently watching the game. I noticed at the 32:07 minute mark of the first half that no one had seemed to have gotten up from their seats to go to the concession stands or restrooms since the game started (of course, they can't bring beers with them, so that would be a contributing factor, but I figure it's mostly that they are all just that into the game). When you looked down the largest seating area along the sidelines, you saw thousands of faces all turned to where the ball was in play, intently following the game. Joan noted to me how nice it was to see the players going all out for the ball and pretty much going all out an all the plays. We're not used to seeing that in a U.S. soccer game unless maybe it's in the playoffs. They seemed very interested in moving the ball and not interested in just standing around the field.

There were no replay screens in the stadium. The scoreboard showed the time and home and visitor scores. That's it. There was an advertising sign for the hotel sponsor near the scoreboard, and there were advertising boards around the field. There were open gaps between the advertising boards at the bottom of the stair/aisle ways, so you could run onto the field if you could get past the security personnel who were sitting near the gaps. If a lot of people decided to get onto the field, they'd just have to jump over the advertising boards or pile through the gaps from the end seating sections. On the straight away seating sections there is a small gate at the bottom of each stair/aisle way, but it wouldn't be tough to get over. There was no fencing to separate the fans from the field as I've seen in some foreign TV games.

I thought the visiting & home fans would do more cheering/singing/chanting than they did. However, the hotel front desk clerk had told us that the opponent for this game was not a big rival, so perhaps that accounts for it. There was a possible handball in the box followed by a penalty kick at around 42:27. It was saved and some kind of argument ensued. I think the goalie had jumped early, so another penalty kick chance was given. The goalie saved it again, and then a fight ensued. Security cops came running onto the field from all over, wearing bright yellow vests (probably about 20 of them). A loud "Who are ya?" cheer went up from the crowd as a yellow and then a red card were issued. The yellow was apparently on Luton and the red on the opposition. There were no announcements to tell you what had happened and what the penalties were. The opposing player was sent off to much cheering. The the opposing coach was also kicked out followed by another very loud "Who are ya?" cheer. There was another flurry by Luton in extra time with the opposing goalie making a diving save, with the half ending 0-0. Joan commented that Luton should have had 5 goals in the first half for all the chances they had! Five security guards watched the stands as the visiting team and referees went off for half time. A retractable tunnel covers the area where they exit, which is probably a good idea. At half time, some other game scores and announcements were made. I doubt they had any "half-time entertainment". We went out and got a hot dog, a mince and onion pie and another cheese and onion pie. The hot dog was a decent size, tasty enough and served on a large fresh hoagie roll, but it was pork, not beef. The mince pie was quite tasty. All of the pies had a wonderful flaky pastry and were piping hot. Warning -- do not burn your tongue on the cheese and onion pie!

Near the beginning of the second half there was a penalty kick at our end, which went over the cross bar. After multiple changes, Luton finally scored sometime before the 52 minute mark, bringing on another "Who are ya?" cheer form the crowd. The player who scored got his first "league goal", which was announced. The crowd has had a lot of disagreement with the referees on their performance during the entire game and had certainly let them know it. Both teams were unhappy with the refereeing. There seemed to be quite a few fouls and whistles. Luton scored again around the 53 minute for a 2-0 lead, bringing on much rejoicing and singing from the crowd (the song was familiar to me). There were a few more songs there and there, sung quite loudly. There was another disputed call, and the cops all ran to the other end of the field. A yellow card was issued, but apparently players thought it should have been a red. The opposing team almost scored an own goal. There's no net to keep the ball from going into the stands (luckily the players don't sky the ball very often). Two balls landed about 3 rows up from us. At the end of the game they announced a certain period of stoppage time (over 4 minutes). Some people did start leaving early, with Luton up 2-0, but they did not leave in large numbers like in the U.S. sporting events. Luton ended up winning 2-0. I couldn't quite catch the attendance figure which was announced, but it was something like 6,024 or 6,664, which seemed accurate. We both thought Luton had more scoring chances in the whole game than we have ever seen in an outdoor soccer game live before.

Between all the shots on goal, the effort put out by both teams, the bad calls by the referees, and the input from the crowd, it was a great game experience. I know English soccer fans have a reputation of being pretty rowdy, but everyone we saw was very well behaved, and we felt quite safe. It was wonderful to watch an exciting game with such a knowledgeable soccer crowd where everyone was hanging on every play and the players on both teams were playing all out. It had been a long time since I'd been at a soccer game where I'd found myself jumping up out of my seat when I thought "my" team was going to score without even thinking about it! I really got wrapped up in the game, even though I'd never seen either team before. That's when you know you're really into the game and are having a great time!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Germain Arena, Estero, FL

Basic Information:
Team: Florida Everblades (ECHL)
Game: Everblades vs Reading Royals-1/22/2010
Team Website: http://www.everbladeshockey.com/
Ticket Information: (239) 948-7425
Tourism Information: (800) 237-6444 or http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/
Online Broadcasts: www.avenuefla.com/
Local Newspaper: Fort Myers News Press http://www.news-press.com/

Team History: The ECHL's first experience in the state of Florida, the Everblades have become one of the top teams in league since their first season of 1998-99. According to sources, team founder Craig Brush saw an article in a National Geographic about the Florida Everglades, and saw that it would be a strong site for professional hockey due to it's high concentration of ex-northerners. The 'Blades have never won the Kelly Cup (the league's playoff championship), but has won the league's regular season championship in 2000.

Team Affiliation: The Everblades are the "AA" affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL. The Hurricanes are owned by Peter Karmanos, the majority owner of the Everblades.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 1998, the Germain Arena is the largest arena in Southwestern Florida. Originally, the building was known as the TECO Arena, as it's naming rights were owned by the Tampa Electric Company. In 2004, the naming rights were sold to the Germain Automotive group, who owns car dealerships in Ohio, Florida, and Arkansas. Previously, the building was the host to professional basketball and arena football, but the Everblades are the only major tenant in the building at this time.

On The Town: With a population of just under ten thousand, Estero, FL is one on of the smallest municipalities in North America to host a professional sports team. However, if you include the entire Fort Myers-Cape Coral metropolitan area, the area's population grows to almost 600,000.

In 1894, Estero was incorporated and developed by followers of Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed, a physician and chemist turned religious leader, who proposed that the earth and sky were the inner surface of a sphere, and all of the celestial bodies were contained in “hollow Earth”. After Teed’s death, Estero stayed as the center of his group’s beliefs, which dwindled into the 1960’s. What is left of Teed’s movement is now known as the “College of Life Foundation” which is still based in the area.

Getting There: From I-75 north: Exit at Corkscrew Rd (exit 123). Follow Corkscrew Rd east to Ben Hill Griffin Parkway. Go north on Ben Hill Griffin Parkway, and follow signs to arena (arena will be on the left side).

Nearby Airport: Southwest Florida International Airport is approximately 12 miles north of Germain Arena.

What To Do Before The Game: Unfortunately, the timing of my trip didn’t allow for much in the way of sightseeing. However, I was told that Thomas A Edison’s and Henry Ford’s winter homes, both of which are located in Fort Myers are worth the visit. For more information, visit www.efwefla.com for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There are several restaurants in Estero on the run up to Germain Arena, but I recommend waiting until you get to the building and having your pregame meal at Breakaway Sports Pub in the Arena (I do recommend reservations, though).

Where To Stay: As in my last few trips to see the Everblades, I stayed at the Red Roof in Naples, approximately 15 minutes south of Estero. However, on this trip, we had some major issues with the hotel, and will probably not stay there in the future. I would recommend checking with your favorite chain or chains for locations near Estero or Fort Myers.

Ticket Prices: Everblades single game tickets are priced as follows: $34.00 (rinkside), $24.00 (club level), $18.00 (sideline), $15.00 (corners), $12.00 (goal). Be warned that there will be usual ludicrous Ticketmaster charges if you purchase your tickets through them prior to the game.

Parking: There is a large lot that surrounds Germain Arena, which costs $5.00 per car.

The Good Seats: With just over seven thousand seats, every seat at the Germain Arena gives a good view of the action. Seating in the first eight rows is padded, and the remainder is of the standard plastic “flip-down” type. There is standing room on a terrace section behind the west goal and there is seating in the Breakaway Sports Pub overlooking the ice, but I believe that those are reserved seats (I’m not a hundred percent sure on how that works).

Getting In: We entered at what I believe is the main entrance, along the north side near the entrance for the restaurant. There are ticket windows along the exterior wall near the main entrance.

Arena Food: My friend Amber and I started off the evening at Breakaway Sports Pub, a hockey-themed restaurant which overlooks the ice surface. It features a good selection of bar food and entrees at what I feel are reasonable prices. My meal consisted of a barbecue pork sandwich and mozzarella sticks, and Amber had a chicken sandwich. Although Amber had some issues with her meal, I thought mine was fairly good, and for a combined price of about $32.00, I wasn’t too unhappy.

In the actual seating area, there are several choices to ease your hunger. In addition to the standard arena fare, there are smaller carts around the concourse which serve beer, mixed drinks, nachos, “gourmet” hot dogs, and various types of roasted nuts. During the game, I sampled the arena hot dog, which is made by Philadelphia-based Dietz and Watson. It was smaller than what I would have expected, but was hot with a slightly ”garlicky” taste.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at Germain Arena:

Hot Dog: $3.00 Hamburger: $3.50 Nachos: $4.50 Draft Beer: $5.50 Pretzel: $2.50 Large Soda: $4.00 Ice Cream: $3.50 Pizza Slice: $4.00

In the concourse of the building near the main entrance is the Big Cypress Club, which is a “full-service” luxury bar. It is only open to season ticket holders.

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at the Germain Arena.

Souvenirs: There are several souvenir tables in the main concourse as well as a pro shop located near the entrance to the Big Cypress club. All sell a respectable line of merchandise.

Restrooms: There are mens and ladies facilities located along each side of the main concourse. All are clean and well stocked.

Mascot: “Swampee” the Alligator is the team’s mascot. Surprisingly, I didn’t see much of him after the main player introductions.

Dance Team: None

Program: The ‘Blades full-color game program is very well done, and costs $5.00. Updated roster and stat sheets are available.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: Germain Arena features an appropriately sized center-hanging scoreboard. While it isn’t “state of the art” in 2011, it certainly gets the job done. It features area for pertinent game information, a matrix board which shows advertisements and animations, and four alligator heads that snort smoke after an Everblades goal. The main scoreboard is supplemented by two auxiliary scoreboards mounted along the suite level in each corner.

The music was of a fairly good selection and played at a good volume. The public address announcer was the same.

Arena Staff: Everyone was quite helpful and friendly. On my last trip to Estero, which was about five years ago, the bartender who served Amber and I was a wonderful young lady named Collette. While Amber and I were having dinner before the game, I noticed that one of the managers looked awfully familiar. I asked her if she used to bartend here. She said “yes”, and I told her that I knew that something rang a bell with me. She was a little shocked when I explained who I was and how I remembered her, but within a few seconds, we were like old friends. Collette is now one of the food service managers at the Germain, and her and her staff does a terrific job!

Atmosphere: As I had mentioned before, there are a lot of transplants in the area from the north who decided to eschew the cold winters for year-round sunshine (can’t say I blame them). It’s kind of what Paul Newman said in Slapshot: “What do they miss? Hockey. Their own team. A Saturday night game.” That pretty much sums it up for the ‘Blades. The fans here know their hockey, and bring strong support to the Germain Arena.

Overall: While Germain Arena might not completely measure up to some of the newer arenas in professional minor hockey, what it does, it does well. It is a fully functional and serviceable building which will be a source of pride for the people of southwest Florida for many years to come.