Elite Teams Hit the Road with the Big ClubJan 26, 2016
This past weekend, the AHL’s Utica Comets had quite the following, as they headed to Toronto to take on the Marlies both Saturday and Sunday. Accompanied by the Comets front office staff and the 2004 and 2006 Elite teams and their families, Utica was well represented throughout the city of Toronto and at the Ricoh Center to help support their AHL team.
With a special thanks to Birnie Bus for supplying a total of four buses for the weekend, the staff, youth hockey teams, and AHL players & coaches all departed from the Utica Memorial Auditorium Friday morning with an end destination of the Westin Harbour Castle in Downtown Toronto. The Westin was called home for the next couple of days; while the Comets front office staff got to experience the city and its surroundings, the youth hockey team and families geared up for a couple of exhibition games, and the AHL Comets prepared for two games against the Eastern Conference’s best, the Toronto Marlies.
Saturday morning, both elite teams, joined by some of the Utica Comets staff, loaded up the bus and headed to the Ricoh Center to play their first game over the border against a quality Canadian opponent, the Newmarket Redmen. The 2004 Elite team took the ice first, right after morning skate wrapped up for the AHL’s Comets and Marlies. With the whole 2006 Elite team watching from the stands, the 2004 Elite team played one of their best games of the season, despite dropping the game 2-1. It was a great experience for the young players to play tough competition over the border and to ultimately get an idea of who they will be competing against in years to come. After the 2004 game was complete, the 2006 Elite team was up immediately afterwards. Although the 2006 team ultimately lost the game as well, the experience of playing in a different professional building, with friends and family looking on, only meant that the result would soon be overshadowed by all of the positives taken away from the morning.
Following the 2006 Elite team’s game, parents and players were able to have lunch in Toronto, all before heading back to the Ricoh Center to watch the Comets take on the Marlies. Once 3:00pm rolled around, it was time to fill two full sections of the Ricoh Center with Comets staff, families, friends, and more while our Utica Comets hit the ice for their game. Having just played on the same ice sheet, the youth hockey players were able to take on the action from the stands and relate their recent experiences on the ice to that of their professional mentors. For most of the Comets staff, it was a great opportunity to experience an AHL game in a different building and exist as fans for a day.
After the game finished, everyone loaded up the bus and headed back to the hotel. Most people took this as an opportunity to experience the nightlife in downtown Toronto. It was an early morning for the youth hockey families as they headed to Forest Hills in the morning for two more exhibition games.
After two hard fought games against another quality Canadian opponent, with the 2004s winning 11-0 and the 2006s falling 4-3, the whole group would finish up the trip by heading to one of Toronto’s top attractions – the Hockey Hall of Fame. Comets staff joined the youth hockey teams inside of the Hall of Fame and got to take in some of the game’s greatest history. After the tour concluded, it was time to load the buses back up and head home. While the trip has now come and gone, it is safe to say that the Comets staff, Elite teams, and families have memories that will last a lifetime. The youth players got to experience a road trip, much like their professional mentors do almost every other weekend.
Again, a special thanks to our transportation partner, Birnie Bus, for helping make this trip a huge success!