No, not the Florida ones, the Georgia State ones! Last night was GSU’s first outing as the new Panthers, a scrimmage against the Kennesaw State Owls over at the Marietta Ice Center. I’ve only ever been to one other rink–Duluth’s IceForum–and so I already knew standard protocol for smaller rinks: jeans, closed-toe shoes, a warm outerwear item and supplement that in my case with a Czech hockey scarf my friend got me when she visited the Republic. It may have been near 90 degrees outside, but as soon as my friend Melissa and I opened the doors to the rink, the temperature dropped considerably. We bundled up and trundled up to an alcove above the ice for spectators, watching a friendly beer league game come to an end before GSU and KSU were scheduled to play.
During that time we met Nicole Gillis, who serves as the team’s photographer and said she was dating the team president and goalie Chris Rogers. We hit it off immediately. She’s still in school and said she’d applied to work at the school newspaper. As a former employee of the newspaper, I encouraged her to do so. We also talked about lingering Thrashers-loss feelings and what teams we like now–Chris has gotten her into the Flyers, so we talked about all the interesting trades and acquisitions they made this offseason.
She told me that GSU had had a team two years or so ago, but they got into quite a lot of trouble with drinking and drugs and were disbarred. As a result, she said it had been a bit harder to assemble this new version. Finances are still a big issue as they get off the ground, but she felt positive and encouraged.
We were both talking and not really expecting it when GSU sent one deep and scored its first and only goal of the night, so neither of us really got photos of that. Kennesaw notched a decisive 7-1 victory. But keep in mind this was one of the Panthers’ very first times working together as a team. I saw some definite burgeoning talent there, although I don’t know any of the players’ names yet, just numbers. Plus, we played a clean game; there were just two penalties and both were taken by KSU. (I need to bone up on my hand signals for the penalties. The ref makes the signals but there’s no clear verbal identification of the penalty. Also I swear he missed a cross-checking call on KSU, so I got to trot out the line “Hey ref, better check your voicemail, I think you missed a call!”)
I should preface the photos part by saying that I am still experimenting with my new camera and its various modes. Most of my photos looked just okay, not spectacular. I think I may need to try sequential mode with flash on; I kept it off this time and that may have led to the photos having less definition than I like. I just need to figure out how to make photos look best in a fluorescent-lit space like a rink. (Today I discovered my camera has a special mode for fluorescent. Three, in fact.) But I’ll keep learning and getting better! The photos look good on the camera’s 12 megapixel screen, but then pop them on the computer and it’s like oh dear! Not so great! But maybe I can ask Nicole if she’d be willing to share her photos, with credit/watermark, when she has hers uploaded.
I’d also like to point out that the MIC is home to quite an impressive junior level team, the Atlanta Knights (not to be mistaken for the IHL-level Atlanta Knights). These Knights are on the Eastern Junior Hockey League South and are really quite good. A lot of the banners against the wall, and all the jersey numbers, are for Knights accomplishments and players. The Knights are the defending league champions and have won for the last four years in a row. Other EJHL South teams include the Florida Eels, East Coast Eagles (North Carolina) and Space Coast Hurricanes. In 2008-09, the Knights went 28-0-0 (including some very decisive victories, like a 17-0 shutout against Charleston). That’s good to know too!
Whoever says hockey doesn’t belong in the South has never actually been here. Sure, Atlanta has no NHL team anymore, but we still have a wide web of college and junior-level teams that will continue to work hard and enjoy the game they love. I can’t wait to see more from the Panthers in the future!