The Malik Report
by George Malik on 06/19/13 at 10:03 PM ET
Updated at 10:11 PM, and beware: Swearing lurks within. *#$%@& deal with it.
Under 24 hours after they captured the Calder Cup, the Grand Rapids Griffins rode a slow celebratory train through town and to Van Andel Arena, where they celebrated their championship with their fans.
And WOOD TV8 posted a clip of the Griffins' plane ride home on Red Bird III, too:
Both WOOD TV8, WZZM and Fox 17 posted photo galleries of the Griffins hanging around town with the Calder Cup, WOOD TV8 posted a gallery from the fan rally, and the Griffins posted some Tweets regarding their celebrations on Thursday:
And WZZM reports that the Griffins' 2:30 AM return to Grand Rapids was surprisingly well-attended...
A few diehard fans showed their heart around 2:30 a.m Wednesday, greeting the Griffins as they arrived home with the cup.
"This is so incredible and so great for Grand Rapids! It's so great for these guys-- they worked so hard for this," said Mary Theeuwas.
A few hours later, workers set the stage for a celebration - 17 years in the making
"The biggest feeling I had, beside sigh of elation, is the huge sigh of relief that we finally got it done," said Tim Gortsema, senior vice president for the Griffins.
"A lot of our season ticket holders have been there for 17 seasons so for them it's hugely gratifying," said Scott Gorsline, chief operating officer of the Griffins.
"I work here I've stood in my spot for 17 years waiting for a win, sharing with my season ticket holders, so this is everything to me," said Kit Domers.
The red white and blue championship tee shirts were moving well Wednesday morning and hats and pucks will arrive in a week or so. Kathy Mooney said the win means a lot for the Calder City. "Just another reason to put Grand Rapids on the map with them winning-- with everything else that goes on here, it's just another jewel in the crown for the city."
And the Grand Rapids Press's Dean Holzwarth, embedded photo gallery of the rally included, reports that Van Andel was 2/3rds full as the fans and players cheered on a win for the players and their fans:
Sami Walters, of Grand Rapids, was the first person in line. She arrived at 11 a.m., six hours before the doors opened for an estimated crowd of around 4,000.
“My grandparents were the fourth in line to get season tickets in 1996 when they started, and it's just been part of my family,” Walters said. “My first word was hockey, it wasn't mom or dad. I'm just so excited, and I've been waiting my whole life for this. I cried when they won (Tuesday night), it was fantastic.”
Grand Rapids' players took notice of the long line forming, and appreciated the support of the fans.
“It's pretty amazing,” rookie defenseman Chad Billins said. “It's why you play here, and the community has been supporting us all year. To see that line out there, you just have to smile at it. It's a great feeling to have so much support, and it's pretty awesome to be able to bring the Calder Cup home to them.”
Griffins center Landon Ferraro said the support of the fans has never wavered, despite the team missing the postseason the past three years.
“This is my second year here, and last year wasn't the best, but seeing the support we had from them then, and until now, it's great to finally win the first championship this franchise has ever seen,” he said. “To see them lined up to come in here, and share this moment with us, is one of the best feelings, and one I will remember the rest of my life.”
The Griffins' storied postseason run was a grueling journey, but one that energized the city at the same time.
“This is a great city, and to be able to capture the fever of the town is great for our team,” Grand Rapids coach Jeff Blashill said. “To be able to deliver a championship to this great city is an outstanding thing, and to be able to celebrate this with the crowd – it's a really special night.”
The championship ultimately belongs to the players, but, as you might expect, the Grand Rapids Press's Steve Kaminski reports that trash-talking could not be eliminated from the celebrations:
[T]he biggest cheer of the evening came when team captain Jeff Hoggan, who was the first Grand Rapids player to hit the stage, came walking out, hoisting the Calder Cup over his head. Hoggan, a 35-year old native of Hope, British Columbia, led the crowd in chant, ‘We got the Cup. We got the Cup.’ Hoggan then got serious.
‘We talked at the beginning of the year about earning it, and these boys earned it,” Hoggan said.
Hoggan then introduced each player, and he got not-so-serious. Hoggan enjoyed poking fun at his teammates.
“This guy, he is not normal,” Hoggan said of Calder Cup Finals Most Valuable Player Tomas Tatar. “He was never on time, he never meets the dress code, but he shows up on the ice every night and he flipping dazzles.”
And then it came time to introduce Brennan Evans, who scored a late goal in Tuesday’s title clincher.
“He didn’t score a goal during the regular season,” Hoggan said. “Who cares?”
Gratefulness? As the internet memes might suggest, "They can has it":
“This is pretty special,” Glendening said prior to the ceremony. “But it’s not about me. I’m so proud of this team, it has been a special year. I know I have only been here for half the year, but it’s special for this team for sure.”
The Griffins jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 series against Syracuse, but they were unable to clinch the championship in Grand Rapids, losing the next two games. Grand Rapids still had the lead, 3-2, heading back to Syracuse, but the Crunch had the momentum.
“The ride home was a lot easier than the ride there,” Blashill said. “No one can accuse us of taking the easy route. It has been hard on our families. My mom has had multiple back surgeries, knee surgeries, hip surgeries, and she told me last night was the first time she went on her knees in a long, long time to pray. But as Chris Osgood said to me after Game 5, it’s not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be hard. That’s why you feel so good when you win, and I can tell you, it feels great right now.”
Update: the evening news thread includes interviews Blashill and Griffins play-by-play announcer Bob Kaser gave to ESPN 96.1 FM, and Blashill spoke to the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada radio as well:
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