Color Me Kisker: Top 5 Moments in Photos

Thursday, 04.17.14 / 3:54 PM
By admin

With Caleb releasing his Top 5 moments of the regular season I figured I’d follow suit but do it a bit differently than he by using Asvitt Photography photos (and maybe a few others!) to tell the best stories of 2013-14.

Personally, I’m surprised that the 2013-14 regular season has come and gone. I can remember the very first goal we scored this season, a Garet Hunt tip of a Ryan Constant shot just seconds into the first game en route to a 5-0 shutout win over the Colorado Eagles.

I met so many great people this year including the guys in the locker room, fans, opposing team employees, and of course my great photographers Gabe and Tara Willett of Asvitt Photography who have taken over 177 GB of photos this season!!

Before I kick off my countdown, I do want to share a thank you with a few folks, starting off with you, the fans.

I know at first it was difficult to adjust to a new team and a new way of doing after the longtime announcer Mike Benton left for Alaska, however I appreciate the patience and the friendship this season. I got to play hockey with some of you, share a drink with many of you, and become friends with so many fans.

I look forward to meeting many more of you in the years to come while also always trying to push to become better at covering your hockey team. If you haven’t come up and met me yet, please do, and we’ll chat some puck, talk about traveling, play a little hockey, etc…

Secondly, I have to thank the broadcast/media relations team in Bakersfield of Kevin Bartl and Ryan Holt who helped Caleb and I adjust to how things are done in the ECHL. They saw so much of us at the beginning of the year when we were brand new that I always felt bad about having them point out mistakes we’ve made, however, pointing those out helped to correct them and make us better.

While there are so many people to thank, I’d like to finally thank Coach Kromm, Corby Antropik, Dennis “The Moose” Brogna, and Garet Hunt for putting up with me this season! The media can be distracting, and sometimes annoying, but Coach has been so patient with us, while Corby, Moose, and “Huntsy” have helped assimilate us into working full time in pro hockey.

There are a lot of nuances in hockey but here’s one that has been so vital to me this season, and could be a helpful lesson for everyone. Respect your leadership, and they’ll respect you.

I always strived to be a leader in school, in clubs I was a part of, and on the ice, but you have to know your place on the team, and this year, I’m a rookie. When you see the rooks carrying bags, you jump in and carry them too. You ask the Captain if you can carry his bag.

You ask the Captain what the dress code is for certain events, and sometimes when your Captain yells at you for talking on the phone in the dressing room before practice, you go to him, apologize, and say it won’t happen again.

Those are things I’m very thankful for in my first season and I look forward to many years to come here in Stockton as it truly does feel like home (you know…minus not having Skyline like Cincinnati does or my favorite mom & pop restaurant for chicken wings, McPartland’s, in Buffalo).

5. Teddy Bear Toss Goal

We were a part of a few Teddy Bear Tosses this season so I wasn’t sure if ours would be as special after going through Bakersfield, Idaho, and San Francisco’s but that theory was shot dead just 2:48 seconds in when Alex MacLeod scored the fastest goal by any Stockton Thunder player to release the Teddy Bears to start the first picture I printed out and put on my office wall.

The joy on MacLeod’s face is simply priceless, and I know from talking with him that it was one of, if not, the most memorable goal he’s ever scored. Before turning to Gabe Willett who stepped onto the ice to capture this brilliant moment, Nemo made a surprise appearance as he photobombed the team, and after the players went through the glove taps, the face of Landon Oslanski put the cherry on the top of that goal sundae!

A total of 5,235 bears were donated to the United Way of San Joaquin. While Bakersfield did beat us in Bear Collection, we won our Teddy Bear Toss game 4-3 in the shootout (yes you heard that correctly!).

4. Playing the Ontario Reign

Once the SF Bulls (RIP) left the league, it seemed like the void they left in our schedule was filled up solely by the Utah Grizzlies and the Ontario Reign.

At the beginning of the year, with Michael Hutchinson, who was one my favorites to win the Goaltender of the Year award (Jeff Jakaitis won however), between the pipes, the Thunder struggled to beat them…in fact…they didn’t. They came close with a few shootout losses but just couldn’t beat the Reign.

All that changed when Hutchinson found himself in the AHL and the Thunder won their first game at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario back on December 22 before the Christmas break. That series was awful not because of how we played, but because it was a three-in-three that started in Ontario on Friday, back to Stockton on Saturday, and right back to Ontario on Sunday.

A win is a win though and after that, our confidence grew and we beat them the next two times and a total of five more times. The odd thing is though that all but one of our wins came in Ontario which means most of the pictures I have of the Thunder and Reign are pictures of sadness.

The last regular season game between the teams at Stockton Arena saw the Thunder fail to hold on to the lead and lose in OT thanks to a Maxim Kitsyn shot that floated past Brian Foster. That being said, the game was very entertaining and we had three fights break out at the end of the second period which saw Joey Diamond really give it to a taller Kyle Bigos.

Brice O’Connor (or O’Conner for those that enjoy the misspelled jersey), playing in what would be his final game with the Thunder before heading back to school knocked some sense and a lot of blood, out of Olivier Malka (side note, I have a picture that was taken of Malka bloodied and on the ice. I waffled back and forth as to whether to include the photo or not in this post. In the end, I thought it wasn’t the right thing to do because not everyone wants to see someone like that, and, it just doesn’t seem to be the classy thing to do. The Reign, and Malka, deserve better than that).

Lee Baldwin would be fight number three as he took on and destroyed Chris Crane to sweep the second period fights in all decisive Thunder victories. Both Crane and Baldwin would be asked kindly by the officials to leave the game as a “secondary altercation”.

The best part of this series is that it gets to continue. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the Reign are good, but we can hang with them, and we can beat them. If the Thunder are able to prevail in the upcoming playoff series, you can look back to December 22 as one of the, if not, THE most important win of the season.

It proved we can beat them.

3. Rough & Ready Win

I didn’t get to go to Alaska. I would have loved to see the country and I would have loved to skate on the outdoor ice that the boys all did.

I also love the Rough & Ready Islanders jerseys and would’ve loved to see them in action. It’s a good thing Brian Sandy wanted to see them too because we got to wear them in front of the fans that can appreciate the symbolism in Rough & Ready Island.

It would end up being the second straight win over Alaska, and we really came to play in that game, that once again, started with a Garet Hunt fight. We set the tone early, and prospered in an overtime thriller when Lee Baldwin poked a puck past Gerald Coleman.

You’ll notice the goaltender made it in a bunch of these photos and I’ll tell you why. He’s an aggressive goaltender, plays exactly like I played when I was in net. Get in the face of guys that crash the crease, throw your weight around (blocker punches hurt), and play an all-around aggressive style. However, when you play that way you have to be ready to face the music.

Think back to the old Red Wings-Avalanche brawls in the 90’s. Patrick Roy wanted to come out and fight so Mike Vernon came and countered him. Roy had to face the music.

The same rang true for Coleman in that game, who was screened and bumped into many times. Notice the picture of Ryan Hayes chatting with the goaltender during play. He just gets under your skin.

Now, for the biggest Oscar though, the penalty the goaltender drew from Matt Bergland “running” him. You be the judge of this (and keep in mind the call had to be made in a split second so don’t blame the officials). Bergland in the first picture is approaching the goaltender but you can tell he’s slowed down, and also no longer looking at the goaltender. In picture two, Coleman LEAPS away from Bergland, feigning injury and that he was hit in what should win him the Oscar for Best Actor.

This wasn’t the first time that someone came close to Coleman and the goaltender claim injury (although to be fair, he didn’t play the next day and did miss some time), but that was the game plan. In the end, the penalties, the goalie chirping, and the “injuries” wouldn’t matter as he finished the night with his head in his hands thanks to Lee Baldwin.

2. Kids Take Over

A first time promotion here in Stockton but one that has been done in many ballparks, arenas, and stadiums throughout the country is welcoming kids to shadow and participate in jobs with the team and the arena. We did this for the first time, and it was also the first real event I had planned. I saw all the applications and hand selected everyone myself.

I was particularly fond of the kids that actually wrote their own “cover letter” out by sending me a paragraph as to why they want the jobs they wanted. Too many parents wrote these for their kids, but I didn’t care about the spelling mistakes, or the missed punctuation as I do when I see adults applications. What I did love is the effort and the willingness to write your own application, I liked the actual reasons why each child chose the jobs they did, and I liked that it was getting kids to practice something that adults have to do to get jobs.

See the point to me is to introduce different jobs to kids at a young age to give them a valuable and fun experience they will remember. Nobody is going pro picking up Chuck-A-Puck’s, but what if one of those kids decides that they want to help with Game Operations in the future?

What about the kids that wanted to write, or photograph the teams? The kids that love machines and wanted to drive and learn about the Zamboni? Or the kids that wanted to help usher people to their seats? They could be the next generation of Stockton Thunder or NHL employees years from now, and if they got their start because a promotion that we did in 2013 peaked their interest than we’ve done our job.

For me personally I loved having our three kid broadcasters, our three kid journalists, and our kid on Twitter, Christa Martin (with the tweet of the year…no doubt…100% even if my intern Lisette Saldana rocks our Twitter with creative hastags).

Melissa Celli, 11, wrote our game recap after the game and she did a great job. Our broadcasters Nick Webster, Adam Fritsch, and Alekz “Triple Z” Kuckowicz did great jobs in their own right.

Nick was a natural at color because of his energy, and I felt bad for the rest of the kids because the Nick got a ton of goal calls in! Not only was this young man so polite, but when I reported back to his mother how impressed I was by the young man’s manners, she was so glad. That was really worth it, as I always remembered how happy my mother got when she was told the same thing.

Teach your kids manners everyone. It’s so important.

Triple Z started out a bit shy, and it took him a few minutes to coax him out and have him really get into the play, but I thought he did a great job too. Alekz began chiming in with thoughtful things to say and did a great job wrapping up a great Thunder win with Caleb and I.

If those two boys did great, it was Mr. Fritsch was amazing, because he really impressed me (before impressing me again during Military Appreciation Weekend). This kid is a stud, when we handed him the reigns (no pun intended per Caleb’s request for me to stop with the puns) to the broadcast he did a great job keeping up with the play. He was a regular Doc Emrick!

Before then he was extremely thoughtful in what he was saying and provided great insight and knowledge for the game that usually doesn’t happen to 10-year-olds.

Truthfully, I was really hoping that the Thunder would score during his play-by-play because I was so proud of the way he was doing (kid said “Tickled the Twine”…classic).

In the end the best reward that I could have ever hoped for happened. After the game I received a note from many parents, doing as I had asked, provide constructive criticism on the event so we can improve it next year.

Adam’s father sent me a note that well…just read it for yourself.

How cool is that…the goal was to get kids interested in working in sports, and in hockey. Well, maybe, just maybe, you Thunder fans heard a future Thunder broadcaster when he was 10. Amazing.

1. The Painted Classic

Come on…you had to know it…and in my opinion the thing that is most wrong with Caleb’s list is having this as an “Honorable Mention”.

Very few times in my life have I ever seen something…anything, and said to myself, “I’m always going to remember this.”

Seeing my first “Pink in the Rink” promotion and I knew it was something special. Seeing Brett Hull score than “no goal” to win the Stanley Cup. Seeing Steven Stamkos score his 60th goal of the season on TV as I was watching from former Washington Capitals goaltender and personal idol growing up, Jim Carey’s, suite during the 2011 NCAA National Championship game between Parker Milner’s Boston College Eagles and Ferris State.

You know…the cool, and important things.

I got the same feeling after we painted the ice. To this day I still get chills when I see the rink. We made hockey history and we KNOW we were the first city to ever paint a rink that we then played on. Truthfully, I’m glad we lost that game as it showed the world that we didn’t do it to cheat. It was still an even playing field.

You know it was special when the CHL’s Arizona Sundogs used it to inspire their Pink the Rink promotion and the Florida Everblades copied the promotion less than a month later.

I was also contacted by a NHL team who I will not name, but I did talk to them and they will be seeing about doing this promotion during a regular season game, or more than likely, a preseason exhibition. Seeing it blow up on social media was so amazing and my theory is that it blew up because of one tweet I sent in hopes that NBC would put the tweet on their Winter Classic Broadcast.

I tagged #WinterClassic by dubbing We Paint the Ice Night the #PaintedClassic and the next day I awoke to a storm. ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CNN, etc… all tweeted it and wanted to cover it. It went viral so quick that it was actually the first time I’d ever seen something that I was a part of make it everywhere.

This event was particularly special to me because I did a lot of the planning for it. I’m not taking credit for the event as it really was a team effort (and a great idea from Brian Sandy), but I was so proud of it because we had completed two great promotions for kids on the same night.

The smiles on the faces, the paint on peoples shoes (by the way, my picture on the ice below…wearing sneakers that got blue paint all over them…totally worth the $25 fine that it cost me from wearing sneakers with a suit), and sitting up at the suite level, gazing down at the rink with the hair standing up on the back of neck will be something I’ll never forget.

Seeing our fans rush to the promotions defense as the same questions were asked of the Florida Everblades Paint the Ice promotion re: seeing the puck, was so cool because our fan’s took as much pride in it as we did. We made national, positive headlines, in Stockton. We…fans, team, organization, did it together. It was an event for Stockton that was made great by Stockton and that’s why it’s the number one moment of the year.

If you participated, remember it, and take pride in it. You will forever be a part of a promotion that will be duplicated in minor league…and who knows, maybe all the way in the NHL, a first in the history of the sport. Nothing else that happened on the ice, or off the ice, was a first this year, except for that, and it’s a moment that all of us involved, will never forget.

Logo of the week is a local one that you’ve all seen before! In honor of my first Stockton Ports game that I attended on Sunday prior to our Season Ticket Holder BBQ, I give you Doc and his asparagus bat.

I love the asparagus logos with the first one I saw down in Ontario at a LIDS store. I thought it was so cool and I only assumed it was a Stockton Ports logo. What I assumed was correct as I learned it was “Gus” the running asparagus. Then I saw this logo donned on a hat, along with the rope S and asparagus logo, and bought both hats and every shirt that had it.

It is now my lifelong mission to get an asparagus Thunder logo. Why, because the Ports and their marketing team have done a great job mixing something about the city, in a logo, and made me, the buyer, want it more than anything. Do I like the normal Ports logo…yes actually, and I do love the Anchor hat that makes it look like the Oakland A’s hat, but I don’t think I’d buy anything unless it was donned by one of these asparagus logos because I love them so much. So Stockton and so cool. Great job Ports.

Last side note..I did have fun at the Ports game despite not really liking baseball. It was the first minor league game I’ve ever been to and it reminded me of my old days watching and calling University of Cincinnati baseball. Really fun! I’ll be back Ports…for more baseball, more asparagus logoed shirts and hats, and of course some fried asparagus! mmmmmmmmmmmmmm