Between Christmas and the end of the holidays, most people were enjoying a mountain of leftovers, the company of friends and a relaxed work schedule. The Ghostriders, however, did not have the same luxury, as they played four games in six days against their biggest rivals.
They played two back-to-back games against the Kimberley Dynamiters, continuing a long and friendly rivalry between the teams and they battled two games against the Creston Valley Thundercats, who they are competing for second place in the Eddie Mountain Division.
I dutifully went to both games, armed with Twitter, a player list, two cameras and emotional support in the form of Free Press reporter, Bryn Catton. While I’m relatively green when it comes to sports reporting, the Ghostriders are giving me a crash course in hockey. I now know way more about the sport than I ever intended to, including what the hand signals from the referees’ mean, how to get a useable photo in an unflattering environment and what a hat trick actually is.
With the exception of playoff games, these holiday match ups were probably the most well attended and attention grabbing games of the year.
Bryn and I covered all of the games, and wrote more words on hockey than we have all year. We shared stories and files with Taylor Rocca, sports editor at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman, who has been covering KIJHL hockey for years.
In one of the emails exchanging stories, Rocca said that in his experience, Ghostrider fans were some of the most passionate around.
“’I’ve been around the KIJHL for a number of years and Fernie has always been regarded as one of the stronger markets in terms of its passionate fan base,” he wrote.
I’ve heard this from others around town as well. Some of my co-workers love the entertainment that the Ghostriders provide, and I can usually find at least one of them in the crowd at any given home game. And throughout the season, during every game I’ve covered, I see loyal fans displaying undying love for the local hockey team. It’s a sense of pride throughout town – when the team does well, there is a noticeable difference throughout the town.
As a newcomer to sports, specifically KIJHL hockey, I originally undervalued their impact on the town. If this past week has taught me anything, it’s that people love a good old fashioned hockey game, and that’s exactly what the Ghostriders provide. I interviewed the coach at the beginning of the season and he told me how happy he was to see a packed stadium with fans cheering on the team. I can only guess how happy he was when Nolan Legace scored the overtime goal to win against Kimberley at home, bringing the sold out crowd to their feet. From what I understand of the Coach, this was a belated Christmas present for him.