Is Charlotte becoming a hockey town? The Checkers road to the Calder Cup might make you think so.
Biscuit in the basket!
Coast to coast. Dump and chase.
That’s likely what those new to the Charlotte Checkers — or hockey — will hear when the team plays the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Finals. Game 1 is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Bojangles’ Coliseum.
This will be the Checkers’ first championship run since 1996, when they won the ECHL title.
In a city more focused on Panthers football and Hornets basketball and hungry for a championship, Checkers loyalists will be joined by new “fans” and hockey first-timers. Here’s a guide if you’re a bandwagon jumper or hockey newbie:
Who are the Checkers?
After a 17-year break, the Checkers returned to Charlotte in 1993 as a part of the East Coast Hockey League. Within the ECHL, the team made the playoffs 10 times and won the Riley Cup in 1996. The Checkers switched to the AHL in 2010 when Michael Kahn bought the Albany River Rats, the affiliate of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and moved the franchise to Charlotte.
The road to Calder Cup
The Checkers won 51 of 76 regular-season games, scoring a league-best 110 points. In the playoffs, they beat the Providence Bruins three games to one in the first round, swept the Hershey Bears in four games in the second round and closed out the third round with a 4-2 victory over Toronto Marlies, last season’s AHL champion.
Don’t block the view and pay attention
Brent Edwards, who has followed the Checkers for 13 seasons, stressed the importance of staying seated while the puck is in play because it’s common courtesy to other spectators. If you get up, you’ll block someone else’s view.
While you’re keeping out of fellow fans’ view of the game, stay aware of what’s happening on the ice. There is an assumption of risk when attending a live sporting event, and hockey is no different. Edwards advised new fans to stay off their phones and be aware of their surroundings — there is always the possibility of a rogue puck flying into the stands.
Do scream and yell
Hockey games are noisy, especially in the coliseum. Originally, a horn would sound when the team scored a goal; however, the Checkers decided to switch it up this season. Each player now has their own goal song, the most unique being right wing Julien Gauthier’s “It’s Raining Men” by The Weather Girls, in Edwards’ opinion.
“The atmosphere is electric, fun and loud,” Edwards said.
Do get there early
Game 1 in Charlotte is expected to be sold out Saturday. Edwards recommends getting to the coliseum early, as there will be long lines for parking.
Plus, there are hidden, pregame treasures that not many fans know about.
“When players head out onto the ice, fans can go to the Red Line Club (restaurant) to give them high-fives,” Edwards said. “Embrace the arena. It’s a good old barn as they say.”
Now, about the hockey lingo
If you hear “biscuit in the basket,” “coast to coast,” or “dump and chase” during this weekend’s games, it’s a good sign for the offense. “Biscuit in the basket” means the puck hit the back of the net on a goal. “Coast to coast” means the player brought the puck from one side of the rink to the other. A “dump and chase” happens when the team fires the puck into one of the corners in the offensive zone and pursues it.
Whether you’re a lifelong fan or a newbie on the bandwagon, now you have a few phrases in your back pocket to seem like you know what you’re talking about this weekend.
AHL Calder Cup Finals
Saturday, 6 p.m.: at Charlotte
Sunday, 6 p.m.: at Charlotte
June 5, 8 p.m.: at Chicago
June 6, 8 p.m.: at Chicago
June 8, 8 p.m.: at Chicago*
June 13, 7 p.m.: at Charlotte*
June 14, 7 p.m.: at Charlotte*
*if necessary; games on AHLTV.