THE INSIDE SORCE
Nicole Sorce, who will graduate from Ithaca College this spring, is authoring this blog for a required college credit. She will explore the off-ice atmosphere involved with the Titans.
#9 – Ushering With Earl
I met a very interesting character last summer when I interned for the Trenton Thunder. I was ushering my first game that brisk night in mid-May, and being one of the new interns at work, I was afraid to do anything wrong or get in trouble. Our supervisors drilled into our heads the “proper” behavioral standards of being an usher, which included things like no texting, knowing the seating sections by heart, and remembering to smile and make eye-contact with the fans.
One rule was that ushers had to walk down the steps to the first row of their assigned section after every 3rd out in order to prevent fans from crowding at the field level. On my first game night, I didn’t know we were supposed to do this. It was the middle of the first, and all the ushers were headed down to the field. I probably had a confused look on my face, and out of the corner of my left eye, I saw a smiling game-day usher one section away signaling me to walk down to the bottom of my section. So I did, causally, like I had been planning on making my way down there the whole night. This process repeated itself roughly 18 times until the last out was recorded. The game-day staff was sent home innings earlier, so the nice man who guided me would remain a stranger until the next time I saw him.
A few weeks into my internship, I got the opportunity to write for the Trenton Makes Blog. I wrote from an intern’s perspective, while two other game-day ushers (one veteran and one in his first season) wrote posts, too, coming from their individual experiences with the Thunder. (It was through those posts and Twitter that I met Jed Weisberger, and, well, the rest is history.) When my first post was published, I started receiving positive feedback about the insight I provided. Fans came up to me at the game and said, “Hey, I saw you on the blog!” and things of that nature. It was definitely a cool feeling to know that people were reading and enjoying what I was writing. One of these people came up to me at a game in mid-June, and I knew I had seen this person before. It was the usher that helped me on my first night.
He came over to me and read my nametag. “Hey Nicole, I’m Earl! Are you the new intern writing for the blog? I’m writing on it, too! It’s my first season.” We hit it off instantly, and as the season came on, Earl and I formed a special friendship bonded by the act of ushering. As the season dragged on (and I mean dragged – baseball can be tedious, especially in the heat), Earl and I began spending a few innings ushering together down at the picnic area each game. We talked about everything – life, love, family, values, but most often, our aspirations for the future.
Earl often asked if I had any clue what I wanted to do with my life, or what I was up to in my creative endeavors, so I would list my dream jobs, such as becoming the first female general manager in professional sports, or producing a movie with Billy Crystal, or having my own TV show (Oprah – sports version – is how I describe it). Earl is the best listener I have ever met, and he would tell me, “I believe in you. You’re going places, kiddo.” It always meant a lot to me when he gave me encouraging remarks, and it’s undeniable that he was one of the guiding forces that helped me get through the summer.
Earl is a retired state employee and photographer extraordinaire, and whenever I think of Earl, I always remember something he always used to say: “I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.” It shocked me at first that a middle-aged man, who already had a successful career, still didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He always causally says “I’ll just go with the flow and see where life takes me.” He helped me realize that anything is possible and that nothing is set in stone, and when my summer in Trenton ended, I knew I would miss my buddy dearly. We exchanged email addresses and sent Facebook friend requests and agreed to keep in touch.
As the seasons changed and hockey began, I found myself working diligently on launching “The Inside Sorce”. I had yet to update Earl on my new project (lack of free time), but I knew I’d get around to it. When I came to my first game back in November, I was very observant of the atmosphere of the Trenton Titans and Sun National Bank Arena. During the first period of Titans hockey I experienced in the press box, I allowed my eyes to wander. They landed in Section 102, where I thought I saw someone with a familiar stance ushering. I didn’t think much of it, however, but I didn’t forget about my curiosity of this person the next game I came to.
I like to arrive early and walk around the arena, often stopping in random sections and sitting in the empty seating bowl, measuring the mood. During my pregame walk before my second game, I casually passed Section 102, and as I circled around the arena, I recalled the familiar figure I saw ushering there a few weeks prior. On my second lap around the arena, I stopped in at Section 102, pulled back the black curtain, and to my pleasant surprise, came across my friend, Earl Baker – usher at the Trenton Titans.
“Hey, stranger, I was literally just going to email you from the press box,” I said. The usher turned around and greeted me with a familiar smile. It had been 4 months since I last saw Earl, but it felt like not a day had passed since our last conversation. We both had no idea the other was involved with the Titans, yet we were not surprised to have met again in Trenton.
We conversed as fans started to arrive, and Earl helped them locate their seats. “The atmosphere here is a lot different than across town,” he told me. “Everyone seems to know everyone. It’s always loud, especially when this place is packed. A hockey crowd is a lot more energetic than a baseball crowd.”
Needless to say, Earl was trained well at the Thunder, and he seemed like a natural as he greeted fans in the arena. Instead of walking to the bottom of the section 18 times per game, Earl only has to walk down to the glass when after the period ends and whenever there is a time out, goal scored, or fight in progress. “It’s awesome – whenever a goal is scored, you’ll walk down to the glass, and on the way back up, all the fans are giving you high-fives. It’s definitely a fun time.” Earl also has the duty of making sure fans don’t walk up and down the aisles during play, which is a common rule at all hockey arenas.
Our conversation moved from hockey and the Titans to memories from the summer – how we would grab a drink every 6th inning from the picnic area and talk about life. I told him how overwhelmed I had been feeling at the time – with the stress of school and graduation impending, plus keeping up with three hockey teams, I was nervous (yet excited) for what the future would hold. “Don’t worry about anything, Nicole,” Earl said. “Everything will figure itself out at the right time. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“You’ll figure it out, buddy,” I always say back. We have no idea what the future holds, but for now, we’re just happy living in the moment, something that has defined our friendship since our summer with the Trenton Thunder.
So the next time you’re at a Titans game, look for Earl the usher and say hello. And you better do so soon – there’s no telling where this free spirit will wind up once the season is over.
#8 – Roadtrip to Elmira
Winter finally decided to show up. It’s cold up here. And I mean really cold. I’ve been hanging around Ithaca for most of my break from school, and with snow and classes all suddenly showing up around the same time, travelling to Trenton to see the Titans play has sadly not been too feasible.
However, a 40-minute drive down Route 13 to Elmira on Friday, January 20th helped in solving my dilemma. I got the opportunity to see the Titans take on the Jackals from First Arena’s press box, thanks to the media mastermind of the Elmira squad, Eric Levine.
It was my first time seeing the Titans on the road, and I had never been to Elmira before. Needless to say, I was excited for the adventure, which started when I arrived at the Gray Street parking garage. As I pulled into a spot on level C2, signs everywhere reminded drivers to remember where they parked. So, I texted my sister, Gina, saying, “In case I get lost in here later… I parked on level C2.” A minute later, she replied, “Wow, you’re a loser.” Thanks, sis. I feel the love.
I made my way to the stairs and descended to Gray Street, and First Arena was just a block away. I found the will-call booth on Main Street and headed inside to find the press area, and we all know how difficult it can be for me to navigate through a new arena. (I still have trouble finding the elevator in Trenton. I always turn right and not left at the main entrance. Creature of habit.)
Fifteen minutes later, I was still circling the concourse, passing many of the same faces several times. They totally knew I was lost: with the confounded look on my face and extreme “Jersey girl” business attire (patterns aren’t really “in” up here), it was a dead giveaway that I was affiliated with the team from NJ.
I then got fed up with finding the press area on my own, and as I was dialing to Eric Levine for assistance, he spotted me from across the crowded concourse and said “Follow me.” He led me to the staircase behind Sections 110 and 111, through the door of the press box, and straight to a work station to the left of the home radio booth at center ice.
I settled in just as the pregame festivities were starting. The Elmira Jackals introduced their players in a fun and unique way. I can’t really explain it,
The upbeat, relaxed environment of First Arena set the tone for what turned out to be an exciting yet heartbreaking loss for the Titans, when the Jackals netted the tie-breaking goal with just over 20 seconds left on the clock. (You can check out the game recap from January 20th’s matchup here: http://www.trentontitanshockey.com/season-2011-12/game-37/)
Stunned by the game I just saw, I gathered my belongings as the seating bowl emptied of happy Jackals fans. This disappointed Jersey girl walked back to the parking garage, wound up on level C3, spent 15 minutes looking for level C2, and finally made it back to Route 13 North to venture back to Ithaca.
Blog # 7 – Chuck-a-Puck
I just wasn’t expecting it.
The horn had sounded a few minutes earlier, indicating the second period had come to an end. The Titans were playing well, and the house was packed with an energized crowd. Instead of the seating bowl emptying (as it typically does during intermissions as fans check out the concessions or merchandise), the fans stood at their seats, seemingly waiting for something to happen.
Out of the corner of my eye, I had noticed that the on-ice crew had a huge container on wheels and tools that I considered to be the hockey version of a rake. I was slightly confused – well, that’s an understatement. I had no idea what was going on. There public address announcer said something about pucks, but I didn’t catch what he said because I was too busy wondering what the “rakes” were for.
Suddenly, the crowd got really loud, and before I knew it, hundreds of red pucks, each with their own designated number, were flying through the air! It went on for a few minutes as the announcer reminded fans, “The puck closes to the center blue dot wins!”
It then all made sense – this was the infamous “Chuck-a-Puck” contest! Naturally, as a senior Sport Management major, I felt dumb for not recognizing this sooner. I’m fairly certain that they don’t teach things like that in college.
Several minutes into it, pucks were still flying from every direction, landing on the ice and rolling or sliding past the blue dot. But it finally stopped as the last puck hit one of the “rakers” in the leg. The arena then fell nearly silent as they awaited the announcement of the winning number. I felt as if I had just experienced a tornado, but instead of cows flying through the air, numbered hockey pucks did.
A nicely dressed woman walked out to center ice, picked up the closest red puck to the blue dot, and shuffled back over to the public address announcer. “And the winning puck is… number… 409!” proclaimed the man behind the microphone. The on-ice crew collected the pucks and gave way to the roaring Zambonis in the background. Never will I ever go to another minor league hockey game and not expect Chuck-a-Puck.
# 6 Behind the Titans: 2012 New Year Resolutions
The turn of a new year has different meanings for different people. For some, recollecting on the memories of the past 12 months with friends and family is what the holiday is all about. For others, New Year’s Day means college football (or for me, the Winter Classic). Some people just look forward to some time off from work and want nothing to do with the festivities. Whatever the case may be, the changing of calendars spurs thoughts from the past and aspirations for the future. When I was at the Trenton Titans game on December 28th, I was itching to know what New Year Resolutions were swirling around the arena for 2012.
I started in the press box by asking the two nearest people to me what their resolutions were. Jed Weisberger, answered, “To stay healthy and keep myself in the shape I need to be in.” Intern Saxony Nielsen gave it a moment of thought and said “Try harder at everything – school, work, and maintaining my friendships.” And when I asked intern Louis Milman, his blank stare gave me the indication that he might never come up with one.
On my way to the elevator, I asked Trentonian writer Mike Ashmore what his New Year’s Resolution was. He, too, gave me a blank stare, so I told him to take the rest of the period to dwell on it. I then took to the concourse where I first spotted the Titans souvenir table. As much as I wanted to buy everything, I knew I was on a mission. I spent a few minutes talking to Becky Apricino, merchandise intern, and I found out that her resolution for 2012 is “To spend less money and find a full time job.”
Across the concourse, I saw a long table overflowing with Titans ticket information. It was there that I met a few ticket account executives who were more than eager to share their New Year Resolutions with me. Although Marissa hadn’t thought about it yet, Woody knows that he wants to find time to volunteer. Other resolutions were more complex. “If someone were to answer for me, it would be to get a date,” Biebs (or so he’s called) began to answer, “but my answer is to eat better.”
I then wandered through the black curtain of Section 115 and found usher Dorothy Thompson. She definitely wasn’t expecting to be asked “What is your New Year’s Resolution?” during the middle of the third period. “Oh, man!” she exclaimed, and after a few minutes, she came up with two. “One is to quit smoking, and the second is to spend as much time with my kids as I can.”
As I made my way back up to the press box, I asked Bob, the elevator operator, if he had a New Year’s Resolution. He laughed and said, “Jeeze, I could list about 100 of them!” When I opened the door to the press box, Ashmore had come up with a very practical resolution: “It’s to cut down on my use of the f-bomb.” Whatever the New Year means to you, don’t lose sight of your resolution, and don’t forget to change your calendars.
- #5 Living Through Live Tweeting
Saturday, December 17, was a boring night at Ithaca College. I had my first final the next morning (yes, on a Sunday – that’s even worse than a test on Monday). Thus, I was unable to attend the Trenton Titans vs. Toledo Walleye game that evening at Sun National Bank Center. Disappointed by the constraints of school, I began exploring my options for following the action from the couch of my campus apartment.
My first thought was to tune in to the live Trenton Titans radio broadcast on 107.7 FM “The Bronc” (via www.1077thebronc.com). However, I had to get some studying done, and as entertaining as listening to Titans play-by-play announcer Daryle Dobos would be, I knew I would definitely not be able to focus on Marketing. I also could have watched the game online, but it would be physically impossible for me to study while intensely tracking the puck on the screen.
Since most of my studying materials were posted online, I decided to try to track the game by checking my Facebook newsfeed for status updates from the Titans. I felt slightly successful when I saw the update after the first period:
Nice! I thought to myself. I couldn’t help but wonder what really happened during the first.
It didn’t take long, though, before Facebook started distracting me – not only from watching for Titans updates, but from my studies as well. One friend posted a funny video of a talking dog, meaning I had to click it, watch it, and “like” it. Others made bigger news by changing their relationship statuses or updating their profiles. And before I knew it, I was looking through my sister’s newly added pictures – all 140 of them. 30 minutes later, it was time to log off Facebook.
This was torture for an ice hockey addict. I wanted to know every single play, goal, and penalty – seconds after it happened. Then, it hit me, as if I was checked from behind and broke 3 ribs. I had a flashback to my experiences at the Trenton Titans and suddenly remembered what intern Louis Millman’s duty during home games is. “Twitter!” I exclaimed, startling some roommates while distracting another from being able to score in NHL ’12 (the video game, in case you didn’t know).
I frantically typed www.twitter.com/TTitans into the address bar. When I saw the most recent set of tweets, I knew I found the perfect solution to my dilemma that Saturday night:
Just what I was looking for! Live updates straight from the Titan’s press box! I was able to keep a tab open on @TTitan’s profile while reviewing power-point presentations for my impending exam. The Titans would go on to defeat the Toledo Walleye 5-3.
Not only can you follow @TTitans for live tweets from all home games, but you can also keep up to date with the latest team news, roster changes, and special ticket offers. Fans also have the opportunity to participate in Q&A Tweet Sessions with Titans GM Rich Lisk and see what Rivet (@TitansRivet79) is up to!
@TTitans / @nicole_sorce / @TitansRivet79
#4 – Trenton Titans Dance Team
Anybody ever ask you anything that just stumped you? Just today, I was asked the question, “If you had to pick three things stick out from your childhood memories of attending hockey games, what would they be?” An impossible task seemed to be at hand – answering that question. How could I possibly pick only three things from my youth?
I had always attended New Jersey Devils games as a kid. I easily could have listed a thousand memories, such as my favorite promotional giveaway (a mini hockey stick with a Devils logo on it), seeing my favorite players up close, witnessing my first shoot out… and the list goes on and on.
After minutes of pondering (and frustrating my classmate who was interviewing me for a class project), I confidently announced the three things that are most memorable to me about attending hockey games, “The loud intensity of the arena during my first game, the personal cheese pizza, and the Devils Dancers.”
The atmosphere of a professional ice hockey game is one that is unmatched anywhere else in sport – especially if you’re experiencing it for the first time. It would’ve been blasphemy to the sport of hockey for me to leave out my very first memory of ice hockey. And I definitely couldn’t leave out my favorite arena snack – the personal cheese pizza. I wish I could go to the Prudential Center right now and get one, but I’m not in the mood to make the 10-hour round trip from Ithaca to Newark and back.
I’ll never forget the Devils Dancers, either (partially because they still exist). To me, they always emulated “girl power”, and will eternally be jealous of them. Throughout most of grammar school, I would try to replicate the way they did their hair and make-up, but it never turned out well, being that I was barely a teenager and they were in their twenties. I still wish to this day that I could’ve been a Devils Dancer, but my talents were not meant for dance shoes.
Thus, when I read last week that the Trenton Titans Dance Team was starting up, I couldn’t have been more excited! What an awesome opportunity for younger fans to get involved with the Titans community, I thought to myself. If only I was 18 again… I would sign up in a heart beat!
Experienced dancers from ages 8-18 are welcome to register at Sun National Bank Center on Saturday, December 17. No auditions will be held as there are two divisions: Junior Prep (ages 8-12) and Junior Pro (ages 13-18). Registration will be held from 1-4 via Gate C.
According to the Titans, performers “will receive pro-level choreography from past and present instructors who have worked with dance teams in the NFL, NBA, and arena football. For more information, visit www.titansdanceteam.com, and be sure to bring the events tab flyer to registration!
#3 – The Essence of the Warm-Up
Most fans choose to show up to a game minutes before the action starts. However, I have never been like most fans. Even though the Trenton Titans game wasn’t starting until 7:00, I arrived to Sun National Bank Center when the gates opened at 6:00 to get in the zone for the impending battle on the ice.
It started in the parking lot. I was able to secure the most perfect spot the lot had to offer – right in front of the stadium doors. It’s worth coming early just for the parking, and with my experience of sitting in post-game traffic after games, I knew this spot would allow me to make a hasty escape. In the matter of 30 seconds, I walked up to the main entrance, had my ticket scanned, and entered the arena with not a single line to stand in.
The first thing I did was found my seat. I walked through the empty concourse of the arena as the heels of my boots echoed off the concrete walls. When I reached the entrance to Section 102, I pulled back the black draping over the entrance. This was where I found usher Earl Baker eagerly waiting to help me find my seat.
“Hey, Nicole! How are you doing?” he greeted me.”
“Earl! I’m great! How about you?” I responded. I first met Earl over the summer when he ushered for the Trenton Thunder. As an intern, I would often get assigned to usher games as well, and when the games went painfully long, I would find Earl and chat with him for the rest of the game.
“I’m fantastic – ready for another great game of Titans hockey!” he exclaimed. Earl took my ticket, led me down to my seat, and returned to greet the next few early-bird fans that entered a minute after I did.
I sat for a minute in the serene darkness of the arena. The pregame graphics running on the screens illuminated the ice in a mysterious way – adding to the buildup of the pregame excitement within me. There was also something else rumbling within me – and it was hunger pains – so I headed back up to the concourse to see what Sun National Bank Center had to offer.
Fans were beginning to trickle in, yet the concession areas were still pretty vacant. I decided to go with a soda and a personal pizza – my all-time favorite combo to have at a game. When I got back to Section 102, I asked Earl, “What time does the warm-up start?
Earl looked over to the clock. “It starts at 6:20 – you’ve got ten minutes!” he answered.
It’s almost unbelievable – within ten minutes of arriving, I had parked, found my seat, and got dinner! I sat back down in my seat, devoured the pizza, and got my camera ready. My favorite part of pregame time was about to begin.
Suddenly, bright lights came on, causing me to almost have a heart attack in my seat. 20:00 went up on the clock, and rock and roll music began blasting. The teams slowly emerged out of their respective locker rooms, placed their extra sticks on the bench, and began to stretch and perform drills.
The best way I can describe the atmosphere of the warm-up is to think of the feeling you get when you watch a movie or television show about shark attacks. It’s as if hunters are eyeing their prey – except hockey version, where nothing is dying. Some players choose against wearing facemasks so they can make intimidating eye contact with their opponents. The glares the enemies give each other throughout this twenty-minute span are enough to give one the chills (even more of a reason than sitting close to the raging ice pit).
As the players continued to build the on-ice intensity, the fans entering the building were adding to the excitement as well. Children ran down the stairs to watch the remaining minutes of the warm-up from the glass and shrieked when their favorite players skated by. One little girl got lucky when a player tossed her a puck. Others stood at their seats with cameras, flashing away as the Titans took their practice shots. The mix of fan excitement and player determination brought the energy of the building to a whole new level (no longer serene and quiet like it was when I chowed down on my pizza).
Suddenly, the music stopped, the lights dimmed, and the players retreated to their locker rooms. As the Zambonis roared out of the tunnel and began to smooth the ice’s surface, I noticed the stadium was still empty for the exception of the few fans that arrived during the end of the warm-up.
I got out of my seat to throw away the remains of my dinner. Earl was standing there, waiting for more fans to take their seats. “Don’t late-arriving fans know that they’re missing one of the best parts of the night?” I asked Earl as I threw away my garbage.
Earl shook his head. “I guess some people just don’t get it,” he answered.
“I guess so.” I returned to my seat as the public address announcer began to announce the scratches, indicating that there were fifteen minutes left until the opening faceoff. I couldn’t wait to see the teams fight for the puck, especially after the warm-up session I had just witnessed.
Not many people seem to understand why I have always enjoyed showing up to games early. I guess it’s just one of those things they won’t understand until they have experienced it themselves.
#2 – The Rink
Ten o’clock on a Tuesday night is not exactly the most exciting time to be at a rink. After a long day of classes, the Ithaca College Men’s Ice Hockey team practices until the clock strikes midnight, and aside from the squad working on their skills and plays, not much else is happening at The Rink in Lansing, New York. The lobby is vacant, the food stand is closed down, and manager of the building is crunching numbers away in his office. The only sounds to be heard are sticks and pucks hitting the ice, coaches and players vocalizing drill instructions, and the pitter patter of my furry black boots echoing through the hallways as I fulfill my “motherly” practice duty of refilling their water bottles
Thirst seems to always strike the team halfway through practice, so I made my way to the loud and cold bench from the warm and quiet lobby to grab the empty bottles. “Ma, we’re thirsty!” whined the sweaty bunch as I neared the bench. I loaded the carrier and headed back to the locker room, waited for the water to turn cold, and returned to the bench a few minutes later with a new supply of H2O.
The clock indicated practice was nearing an end, which could only mean one thing – time for the “5 on 5” drill! Normally, I would rush back to the warm lobby to defrost my frozen fingers and toes, but tonight, I decided to watch this one from the bench. Coach Dallas blew the whistle, indicating the beginning of the drill. All became quiet, but when the puck dropped, the rink erupted with the sounds of sticks hitting each other, skates ripping up the ice, and pucks “dinging” off goal posts. The intensity of teammates vs. teammates can only be matched by rivalries, and before I knew it, I was recalling the experience I had at my first Trenton Titans game.
I took my seat in the press box at 7:00 on Saturday, November 26th. The National Anthem had just been performed, the starting lines were introduced, and the referees took their positions on the ice. “You picked a good day to come to the game, Nicole,” Jed Weisberger, Titans’ Media Relations Director, assured me. “Chicago has quickly become one of our rivals, you could say.”
The referee whistled at center ice, and the players lined up for battle. The same sort of silence that I had just experienced at practice fell over the arena for a quick second – something that will always give me the chills, no matter where it is that the hockey takes place. The Trenton Titans and Chicago Express faced off in front of an energetic crowd, and it was evident from the first minute of play that it was going to be a close and exciting game.
At 7:34 in the first period, Andy Bohmbach’s goal, assisted by Jordan Southorn and Justin Cameron, electrified the fans, most of who were jumping up and down out of their seats. Cheering, jeering, a few “WOO”s flowed through Sun National Bank Center, and a full period later at 7:44 in the second, déjà vu practically occurred! Bohmbach scored again, but this time with assists from Denny Kearney and Randy Rowe. The mighty Titans had the fans on their feet again, clapping along to the beat of the blasting celebratory music.
It would seem that Trenton had a pretty decent shot of winning as the third period started, but Chicago had other ideas. With about six minutes remaining in the game, the Express scored two goals within two minutes – one by Evan Stephens at 13:47 and the other by Chaz Johnson at 15:39. The score was now tied, 2-2, with overtime looming in the distance.
The mood of the arena branched off in several different directions. The fans were stunned and sat what felt like complete silence for the remainder of the period. Intern Louis Millman’s face screamed “disappointment”, not only because the Titans had lost the lead, but because he would miss the train that would get him to bed at a reasonable hour. Beat reporter Mike Ashmore’s fury was inescapable in the press box, as the tie would prevent him from making his 9:15 PM deadline. I, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of the game I was witnessing. There’s nothing quite like sudden-death overtime, and once you experience it first hand, you’ll secretly hope you’ll get to witness such a battle every time you come back to a game (and maybe even luck out by seeing a nail-biting shootout – my personal favorite!)
Overtime has two ingredients: luck and fear. Both teams had made it this far, and it almost seems unfair that there has to be a loser. Everybody in the building was on edge and had their eyes glued to the ice. At 2:40, Rob Bordson had enough of the fear of losing and, with the help of Denny Kearney and Eric Baier, netted the game-winning goal that set off a chain of joyous reactions throughout the arena. Louis was relieved that he might still have a chance of making his train, Ashmore was able to finish his article, and the fans were jumping up and down again – this time hugging and high-fiving each other in celebration. Titans usher Earl Baker told me that there’s nothing quite like the energy of hockey fans, “especially when they’re high-fiving you as you’re walking up and down the aisles after walk-off goals!”
Suddenly, I heard a whistle, and realized that practice had just ended. I snapped out of my daydream (well, technically midnight-dream at this point). I emptied the water bottles onto the ice, placed them back in their carrier, and headed back to the lobby to defrost from the intensity of the freezing rink.
Where’s the Elevator?
“Merge onto Route 1 South,” my GPS said as I got closer and closer to Trenton on Saturday, Nov. 26. My roughly two-hour commute from the mountains of Sparta, N.J. was nearing an end – 5 minutes to be exact, according to technology. As I neared the exit for Rt. 129, memories from Summer 2011 started rushing back. I used to take the same commute into the city as an intern for the Trenton Thunder.
During my time at Waterfront Park, I learned more about the world of professional minor league baseball than a senior sport management major could have imagined. I also had the opportunity to write for the “Trenton Makes Blog”, the official blog of the Trenton Thunder. It was through the power of blogging and Twitter that I met the well-known Media Relations Director of the Trenton Titans – Jed Weisberger.
“Turn left on South Broad Street,” the GPS demanded, and I had finally arrived to the reserved parking lot of Sun National Bank Center. I parked right in front of the arena, shut the car off, and felt accomplished about tackling the major interstates of New Jersey for almost two hours.
I sat in my car for a minute and gathered my thoughts. Managing Ithaca College’s Men’s Ice Hockey team for the past three years has given me a different perspective on the sport that gets my blood pumping the most, but there was a part of the operation that I wanted to see more of. I asked Jed if I could come down for a game to shadow the press box so I could learn how media relations were directed in ice hockey compared to baseball. Jed assured me that the two sports had drastically different press boxes, so I was more than excited to get inside the arena to see what he was talking about.
I followed the signs outside the stadium for the will call ticket window, and when I found it, I gave the available representative my name. She came back with a press pass – my first one ever! I headed back towards the main entrance, and my pursuit of finding the press box began. I started by asking the gentleman working in the security office, which was conveniently located right near the doorway I entered the building through, “Where is the press box?” And before he got the chance to answer, a Titans employee came through the door behind me and said, “Take the elevator all the way to the top.” My next question should have been, where is the elevator?, but the adventurist within me wanted to find it on my own.
Although the arena was empty at 5:15 PM, it already had the hustle-and-bustle atmosphere of a packed house. Cooks were deep in preparation in the kitchens of fan-favorite concession stands, such as Black Angus Burgers and Fries and Papa John’s Pizza. Team sponsors set up their information tables, Titans personnel organized merchandise in the store and around the concourse, and game-day staff members (like ushers) took their positions around Sun National Bank Center. I began to see more and more people with press passes, scurrying around the arena for interviews and photo opportunities. I, on the other hand, was still looking for the elevator.
My attention to the elevator detail was quickly diverted when I saw and heard a band warming up in the middle of the concourse. It was then that I saw the sign “ß ELEVATOR”. When I pushed the button and got inside, I chose the highest number it offered and awaited my arrival to the press box. However, when the door opened, I realized I was nowhere near the press box. I walked out into what looked like a fancy restaurant, where employees in black and white uniforms directed me to an elevator that would take me to my destination.
When I pressed the “up” button, I was greeted by a jolly Titans employee sitting in a chair in the elevator. “Where would you like to go, miss?” he asked me.
“Press box, please!” I replied. He pushed the “3” button, and before I knew it, I had reached the top of the ice. I opened the door and noticed that the writers had already claimed their sacred viewing spots. Titans play-by-play radio announcer, Daryle Dobos warmed his vocal chords and prepped for his broadcast while music and graphics were exploding out of the production room. The off-ice personnel were preparing to record statistics as intern Louis Millman busily updated the official Facebook and Twitter (@TTitans) of the Trenton Titans.
As the puck dropped for the opening faceoff at 7:00, I knew I’d be in for quite a treat. The Titans beat the Chicago Express 3-2 that night, thanks to an overtime goal by Rob Bordson in front of 3,695 lucky fans.
After the game, I had no trouble at all finding the elevator. When it reached the ground level, I exited and took a look at where I was in the arena. When the elevator door closed, I noticed it was painted white and blended into the wall. I found humor in the fact that earlier in the evening, I had walked right past it at least four times and still chose the wrong elevator. I walked out to the parking lot, got in my car, turned on the GPS, and let it guide me home to Sparta.
And so begins my adventure with the Trenton Titans. Stay tuned as I explore the many facets of the Trenton Titans from the perspective of an ice-hockey obsessed sport management student! You can also find me on Twitter – @nicole_sorce.