© — Telegram file photo
Fans dressed in white cheer on the St. John’s IceCaps at Mile One Centre during the team’s first Calder Cup playoff game in the 2011-12 season. The IceCaps are asking that fans attending Wednesday’s playoff home-opener against the Albany Devils — Game 3 in the teams’ tied American Hockey League Eastern Conference quarter-final — keep the whiteout tradition alive.
St. John’s hopes fan tradition will rekindle atmosphere from first playoff run
It was a long winter in Newfoundland … one to forget, even though this spring hasn’t really done much to erase the memory.
Nevertheless, the St. John’s IceCaps are hoping for a whiteout here on Wednesday night.
Mind you, that’s an internal type of storm, as in within the confines of Mile One Centre, where the IceCaps will play host to the Albany Devils in Game 3 of their American Hockey League Eastern Conference quarter-final.
The teams split the first two games of the best-of-five Calder Cup playoff series over the weekend in Albany, N.Y. The fourth-seeded IceCaps hold home-ice advantage over the fifth-seeded Devils, and will utilize it this week at Mile One, for Wednesday’s contest and Games 4 and 5 Friday and Saturday, the latter falling into the “if necessary” category.
To augment that advantage — last change, familiar surroundings, etc. — the IceCaps are asking fans to wear white Wednesday and throughout the team’s playoff run.
“It’s about creating an atmosphere, a real playoff atmosphere,” said IceCaps’ chief operating officer Glenn Stanford, “and it’s about emphasizing how important our fans are in all of this.
“Of course, they are always important, but just like the players step it up come playoff time, we know our fans will, too, as they did in Year 1.”
That’s in reference to the 2012, when the IceCaps capped off their inaugural season by advancing all the way to the conference final.
“During those playoffs, beginning with that first game here, the fans came in the building and they took over,” said Stanford. “They took it upon themselves to make a difference and they did.
“Right from the anthems, throughout the games, they were loud. Not just for goals and big saves, but for good penalty kills, smart defensive plays and just plain hustle.
“They were loud and we’d love to see and hear that again. We want to recreate that atmosphere, that feeling.
“I know it made a difference for our players, and those who experienced that first year would love to experience it again, while those playing here in the playoffs for the first time would love to experience it, too, I’m sure, after hearing about what it was like.”
The whiteout tradition started in Winnipeg in 1987 with the first edition of the National Hockey League Jets, the IceCaps’ parent club. The “Winnipeg Whiteout” was in response to the “C of Red” campaign launched by the Calgary Flames, their first-round playoff opponent in the Stanley Cup playoffs that year.
The whiteout was continued by the Phoenix Coyotes after the Jets’ franchise was moved to Arizona and was also utilized by the AHL’s Manitoba Moose before that franchise was transplanted to St. John’s in 2011 after the NHL returned to Winnipeg.
However, the Jets have never been able to call for a playoff whiteout in the three years since their return to Winnipeg as they have yet to make the post-season.
Nevertheless, Stanford says the IceCaps’ whiteout isn’t really an organizational thing, that it isn’t being done at the behest of the Jets, who own the IceCaps’ franchise.
“Winnipeg hasn’t asked us to do this,” he said. “To be honest, we started this because of requests and suggestions by our fans in our first year.
“They’re the ones who initiated it, and they’re the ones pushing it again in social media, asking other fans to do the same.”
The IceCaps are part of that campaign on Twitter (@IceCapsAHL) and Instagram (@stjohnsicecaps), offering fans the chance to win prized by posting a picture of themselves at work or school on game days wearing IceCaps gear and using the hashtag #WeStandTogether.
Winners will receive a visit from the IceCaps Street Team, which will deliver prizes such as jerseys, sticks, pucks and tickets.
See GAME 3, page B2
Playoff tickets can also be won by following the IceCaps on social media. Beginning Wednesday, and on every home game day during the playoffs, the team will release the secret location of the Street Team. The first fan to find them and yell “We Stand Together,” the team slogan, will win a pair of tickets.
Additionally, a life-size cut-out of IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray will be placed at various locations around the city on game days. Fans who Tweet or Instagram a picture of the cut-out and tag the IceCaps while using the hashtag #WeStandTogether can win prizes, including playoff tickets.
For those who don’t want to trust in luck or being in the right place at the right time, Stanford says they can still obtain playoff tickets through the traditional method of purchase, and that, “a number good seats are still available” for Wednesday’s game.
The IceCaps have sold out every regular-season and playoff game in their history, but traditionally, AHL teams in St. John’s have found that many of their fans, in particular regular-season season-ticket holders, are out of the province at this time of the year and don’t immediately renew for the playoffs.
There once was an estimate that five percent of the Newfoundland and Labrador’s population travels south in April. Stanford agrees that given the winter we had and the spring we’re experiencing, that percentage might be even higher this year.