Providence hosted the best of the American Hockey League on January 28 in the All-Star Classic at the Dunkin Donuts Center. Since the game itself holds no real consequence (Eastern versus Western Conference), it's basically a talent showcase with surprisingly little drama. The players aren't checking, the refs won't call any penalties and during the first period it appears that both teams are just going through the motions. From the press section we kept hearing this one man trying repeatedly to get a crowd chant going: "Let's go eeee-ast! Let's go eeee-ast!" It didn't take. But wait... holy crap, every single mascot from the AHL is out in the audience! During lineup announcements they filed behind the plexiglass where the coaches stood, frantically waving and bouncing around. There were so many of them packed together it looked like a road show for Chuck E Cheese.
Then, during the game they fanned out in the audience doing mascot antics. There was Pucky the Whale, Providence bear Samboni, and Finz the Shark dancing in unison to “Gangnam Style.” Had I just dropped acid? Griff the Griffin was throwing t-shirts long distance across the ice to wild cheers. T-Bone the Bull was holding babies aloft. Duke the Dog was leaning precariously over the glass in danger of falling onto the ice. Screech the Falcon hammed it up with a trio of intoxicated guys wearing Hanson Brothers Chiefs jerseys.
Yes, somewhere in there a game was happening. During the second period the East goalie Curtis McElhinney was pinned along the boards when he came out to play a puck, and the West basically scored an empty netter. No penalties. No consequences. I guess you would call that a "controversial goal" if people were emotionally invested in the outcome (although there were some jeers from the crowd during the replay on the Jumbotron). With eleven seconds to go in the third period Ryan Hamilton scored to break the tie and deliver a West victory. But really I just kept wondering if Hawkey, the Abbotsford mascot, made the 2,400 mile trip from western Canada to Providence. I would have bought that bird a beer.