What a lousy game... we were tied 1-1 into the third when Utah scored 3 goals in 1 minute 43 seconds. *ouch* Even though we lost, the Wolves became the third team to clinch a berth in the Calder Cup 2004 Playoffs (all three teams are from the old IHL).
This was going to be a fun night for the fans. A little bit of history here...
First off, the group that sits in our general area have an unofficial name - The Penalty Box Police. The name partially comes from the fact that we do have a bunch of cops that sit around us, but it's also because we ploce the penalty box of the visiting team. We make sure that we try to get under the skin of any opposing player in the box. It always start with a chant - (for example, let's say Nick Naumenko had a penalty - and he had quite a few tonight. The group would chant: "Nau-men-ko! Nau-men-ko! Nau-men-ko! You Suck!".) OK, it's not very original (here's a sample of the chant - the audio isn't as good as it could be), but it's just our way of saying "Howdy!". The more you show up in the box, the louder and more boisterous we get. The biggest mistake is to acknowledge our existence, because we'll just turn up the taunting.
Last week, Utah was in town and the two teams had the luck of getting ol' #42 O'Rourke as a referee. This guy always blows calls and usually doesn't control a game too well. There was a period of time last week when Utah had 5 guys in the Penalty Box at the same time.
One of these guys was Zenon Konopka. I guess the guys were really after him in particular (he was in the box and made the mistake of recognizing us). The whole Allstate Arena went after this guy. First, groups of people around the stadium took turns chanting "You Suck!" at him, eventually the entire place did it together.
Well, everyone in our group was making sure they were going to be at the game tonight, ready to focus on Konopka.
The problem happened last night. Utah played Milwaukee and let's just say there was an awful lot of fighting. Our "friend" Konopka got suspended for one game. He didn't dress for today's game.
I've never seen so many people bummed out for a visiting player not to show up. Ryan, who sat in front of us, even made a "Konopka Sucks" shirt for the occasion.
Well, we got a little reprieve when Sockboy (Bill) came over to tell us that Konopka was in the seats, watching the game. Sure enough, we found him. So, we coordinated chants between both the north & south sides of the stadium to go after the guy. And, of course, he recognized us wuth a wave.
We find out during the 1st intermission, that even the AHL officials knew about us, Ryan's shirt, and Konopka being in the stands. During the 2nd Period, Ryan decides to go over to him and get the shirt autographed.
It turned out fine. Both Konopka and Justin Cox (who didn't play because of a thumb injury, probably from one of the fights last night) where really nice guys. The had a great conversation, and said to Ryan (and Brad who was with them) "Now, when we walk away, it's war!"
What a great attitude to take, having a great time together but realizing that there's a game on and alliances and allegiances must be kept.
Of course, when everybody was back in their seats, we had to chant one last time...
(Boxscore - Gamesheet)