For a change of pace here on Believing Since 1999, today’s blog is going to examine (not sure if that’s the right word for what this will end up being) another team in Cleveland that doesn’t get any press, the Lake Erie Monsters.
A little bit of background on the Monsters before we get going in earnest: They are owned by Dan Gilbert, are the AHL (American Hockey League) affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, and are the latest installment of minor-league hockey at The Q/The Gund following the Cleveland Lumberjacks and the Cleveland Barons (respectively).
Growing up in Cleveland, with my Dad being a huge hockey fan, I remember going to my fair share of Lumberjacks games (back when it was called the Gund Arena) and some of the Barons as well. There’s still a Lumberjacks poster that hangs in my room at home. If you’re interested, Lumberjacks appreciation night is coming up at The Q on Saturday if we all survive (yes, I’m dead serious).
For anyone who’s reading this that’s a hockey fan, some of the names that came through Cleveland that ended up in the NHL are Patrick Lalime (goalie), and Martin St. Louis (fast guy who I think is a winger but don’t quote me on that). St. Louis turned out to be a pretty decent star in the league for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
So, my NHL lockout refugees, here’s a play-by-play account of my trip to The Q for the best professional hockey currently being played anywhere in the US.
First, I have to say thank you to my friend’s parents for winning the opportunity to go to this game, because we took in the action from a suite. This experience came with a VIP parking pass in the garage that’s connected to the arena as well, so before we even walked into the arena this night was already awesome.
After parking in our VIP spots, we walked over to the bridge that leads right to the suite level. I want to preface the rest of this post by saying me and my friends had all been here before, therefore it wasn’t our first rodeo. So after we got to the suite and did everything you do if it IS your first rodeo anyway (open the fridge, check out the bathroom, sit in the comfy chairs, play with the channels on the TV, sit in the regular seats, repeat), the team came out for warm ups and we settled in and caught up like adults who haven’t seen each other in ages. This part of it was legit because we had a whole semester of college to catch each other up on, which can be eventful.
Another pre-game observation that we made from our perch in the suite is that the two high school couples that were cuddling and making out in the seats in front of us could have easily found a much cheaper way to cuddle and make out. At any rate, live your dream, kids.
The Monsters’ opponent were the Toronto Marlies, the affiliate of (shockingly) the Toronto Maple Leafs. The people I went with are big Leafs fans, so they all had the gear going and everything. I have nothing against hockey, and some of the die hard fans of the league are pretty cool. Though I don’t follow the NHL very closely, I’m a Red Wings fan and watching live hockey is a fun time regardless of who’s playing.
One of the first things you’ll notice at a hockey game (or at least I noticed, maybe I’m just like this) is that the music that is played hasn’t changed in years. You will almost always hear “Machinehead” by Bush, anything by Linkin Park, “We Will Rock You”, “Kickstart My Heart” by Mötley Crüe, and others like them. Naturally, the song that is played while they’re announcing the starters for Lake Erie (which a friend of mine called before they even started) is “Monster” by Skillet. Of course they did. Still, let’s be honest. You’d play that song too, it’s just too perfect.
After my mindset had been locked in by those classic arena jams, they dropped the puck. As is customary for people in suites (a tradition that morally I despise, but hey, when in Rome), we spent a lot of the game sitting on those comfy chairs inside and watching bits and pieces of the Cavs’ loss at Boston. We also ate tons of the delicious food, which is what I want to talk about next.
The food in these suites is phenomenal. We had the standard arena fare, pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, and these spicy chicken tenders, but they were all delicious. What’s even cooler is that nowadays, you order all of your food from a pre-programmed iPad located on the counter by the fridge (which was already stocked with Budweiser, Great Lakes Brewing Christmas Ale and plenty of pop/water). This is where the Sport Administration major in me kicked in. Having the iPad in there to order stuff is a very nice touch. You could also order items from the team shop on that bad boy.
Back to the action on the ice, it was a rather entertaining game. The Marlies pulled ahead late in the 3rd period, and the Monsters answered with a couple of minutes left to send it to overtime. In overtime, David Van Der Gulik buried one top cheddar (another hockey term, I hope) off of a rebound for the game winner. There was a small crowd on hand, but they were into it, and the plastered guy in the suite next to us was super into it. That made for an exciting game with an exciting finish, which is all the average hockey fan can ask for.
In total, the fan experience that you expect from the Cavs is the same that you get when attending a Monsters game. It isn’t hard to tell that Dan Gilbert is at the helm of the operation, because even though it is minor-league hockey, the game day experience is first class. Kudos to Gilbert, The Q, and the Monsters. Hockey fan or not, the Monsters are a relatively inexpensive way to have a fun night out in Cleveland. The suites obviously didn’t hurt.
Of course, walking out of the suites and into the garage, there were kids selling candy bars for a fundraiser. Smart thinking to hit up the suite-holders for fundraising, but unfortunately for them I am by no means a suite-holder and therefore had no cash to buy a candy bar. I felt bad about that, especially because those kids watched me walk out of the suite level and tell them I had no money.