This past week, both the NHL and the AHL have made me face what was and what is now. If that makes sense. New Jersey and Albany (what is now) opposed Carolina and Charlotte (what was) a few times, putting my renewed Devils fandom to the test. For the last four years, it’s been all about Carolina for me here, with the Rats being affiliated with the Hurricanes after the first Devils regime ended. Lots of memories, including bowling, Booster Club dinners, road trips, and laser tag last year. It was a crushing blow when almost exactly a year ago it was announced the Rats had been sold and were moving south to Charlotte. Not only was I losing the new friends I had made, at the time no one knew if another team would come in. Of course a few months later the Devils officially came back, and while the team here has been struggling, the Checkers are thriving in North Carolina. They’re doing well in the standings and in attendance figures, and on a personal note the YouTube videos are awesome (I miss Murphy’s Mailbag here…so glad Murph is bringing it back).
When the AHL schedule came out at the end of August, everyone I knew grabbed Albany’s and Charlotte’s schedules, looking to see when the Checkers were nearby. At first, I was up for visiting my old friends…when Albany had days off in October and the Checkers were nearby (in Springfield and Adirondack), I went to see everyone. I even passed up a road trip in Syracuse where Albany was to go see Charlotte in Binghamton. But when the Checkers first came in to Albany, I stayed on the Devils side as everyone else made a beeline to see the Checkers. As November and December wore on, I got more into the Devils as I continued my tweets and pictures, but still checked on Charlotte here and there. When they came back to Albany in January I again stayed on the Devils side…turned out I was the only one. Literally. But a couple weeks later I did see them in Wilkes-Barre while I was down there for the weekend to see the Devils. Then a week later came the first conflict…the Checkers were going to Adirondack while Albany was home against the Penguins. I chose to stay home and support the home team, while it seemed like everyone else jumped ship and went north. This week came the three game series in North Carolina. I actually had a feeling it wasn’t going to go so well for Albany there, but they surprised me, winning 2 out of 3 games and playing well in the one loss (a late Brett Bellemore goal took care of that).
Now we come to this Saturday. Another conflict for me, the Checkers are again in Adirondack while Albany travels to Binghamton. I was all set to go to Bingo to see the Devils and basically as I saw it, “make a statement” that I was an Albany fan. Then last Friday it hit me as I was looking at the calendar…Saturday’s date is February 19th. The same day as the 2 year anniversary of the Rats bus crash on the Mass Pike. The more I thought about it, I said, I can’t go to Binghamton, I have to go to Adirondack. It would be in a way disrespectful to those on the Checkers that had to endure that night. Plus I have yet to see Michael Leighton (former Rat) in a Phantoms uniform, even though Sunday the Devils and Phantoms face each other in Albany. So I’m kind of taking a day off so to speak Saturday, but I’ll probably be checking my phone every 5 minutes for updates.
Gone on enough for one night…now back to Devils-Hurricanes on my free Center Ice preview…