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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stockton Thunder - A Little Fun Before the Storm

This afternoon the Stockton Thunder hockey team held its FanFest event at Stockton Arena. It was a great opportunity to see the team that would be hitting the ice on October 15, 2010, the first Thunder game of the new season.

Fans in attendance were first treated to a skills competition. The glass on one side of the arena was taken down. The absence of glass created a more intimate environment and allowed a few of the hockey players to able to interact with the crowd. Center Craig Valette was one of the first guys to skate over to the kids sitting in the row in front of me and chat with them about their mohawks and if they'd ever played hockey. Coach Thomas even surprised some people by stretching his leg out on the wall right in front of them so he could warm up.

After Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations Mike Benton welcomed the crowd, Coach Thomas had a few of the guys do the Puck Control Relay. Then the team competed to see who had the fastest slap shot. Valette went first and his shot registered at 98mph, which would end up being the fastest time among all the guys. After everyone took their turn, defenseman Ryan Constant had the second fastest time at 93mph. Coach Thomas wanted to see which one of the two would still have the fastest shot so Valette and Constant ended up having to "rock-paper-scissors" to see who would go first. Valette still came out victorious by shooting at 98mph again.

The last event in the skills competition was the Breakaway Relay. The guys were divided into two teams, one team shooting against goalie Tyson Sexsmith, and the other team shooting against goalie Jason Lindner. Coach Thomas explained to the crowd that this exercise was important because the Thunder had problems winning in shootouts last season. The guys definitely took special liberties with this skill, a few of them tried some really fancy between-the-leg shots, some spin-o-ramas, and deke & delay moves. Either the Thunder will still have issues with the shoot-outs, or the goalies were extra sharp. Sexsmith only let in one goal, and Lindner gave up two.

The next session of FanFest featured an autograph session for half the team, while the other half participated in a Q&A session with the fans asking the questions. After half an hour the guys would switch. I ended up getting pictures and autographs first then sat in on part of the second Q&A session. I don't think there was an official attendance tally for FanFest, but this was the most people I've ever seen at a meet & greet event. The line for autographs was enormous and I was lucky to be near the front. Photographs from the event can be viewed here:

The Q&A session really showed off the team's personality. Even sitting on a stage with microphones in front of their faces and a crowd of about 100 people in front of them, the Thunder were really laid back and at ease. Seeing how they interacted with each other you could tell immediately who the jokers and clowns were and who was more reserved.

One of the first questions from a fan was where their worst road trip was. Defenseman Anthony Aiello said the recent preseason trip they took over the weekend was bad because of the bus ride to Ontario. Jason Pitton stated that in Alaska, they never saw one minute of daylight. Scott Howes, Tyson Sexsmith, and Chris D'Alvise also named Alaska. Assistant Coach Matt O'Dette made the crowd laugh by saying visiting Bakersfield was the worst.

Another fan asked the team who their favorite hockey idol was. Aiello said "Ray Borque". One of Jason Pitton's was "Doug Gilmour". "Glen Metropolit" was listed as Scott Howes idol. No surprise that goalie Tyson Sexsmith's choice was "Patrick Roy". Coach Thomas named "Wendel Clark". Steve Vanoosten said "Steve Yzerman" was his idol. And once again, Matt O'dette drew laughs and applause when he said Garet Hunt (who played for the Thunder the last two seasons and is now on the Worcester Sharks) was his idol.

The last question posed seemed like an easy one, but the guys seemed a little bashful to answer. The question was who their favorite female celebrity was. The names "Megan Fox", "Heidi Klum", "Jenna Fisher", "Faith Hill", and "Carrie Underwood" were thrown out there after much hesitation. Coach Thomas said he was glad the guys were focused-they were able to answer who their favorite hockey idol was faster.

Let's hope the guys are very focused. All the Thunder fans are impatient and excited for the 2010-2011 season to be underway. With each year the team has been in existence, they've exceeded the successes of the year before. The Stockton Thunder made it to the Kelly Cup Conference Finals last year, and while that was fantastic, they want more, and I can't wait to be among the crowd that's there for it.

-Written by Lyndall Mae-


  1. Hardest shot is measured in mph, not time. Valette and Constant tied with 98 in their initial shots, which is why the "ro-sham-bo" took place before deciding a winner. Also, Vanoosten was the only player to score on the breakaway drill. Sexsmith didn't allow any goals, while Lindner gave up one. Could have done without some of the non-hockey Q/A questions. Who cares about Jersey Shore?

  2. Thank you for correcting me. It was hard for me to take notes while also trying to watch & listen to everything going on. This is why I don't want to be a news reporter. During the breakaway drill they kept announcing that the score was tied at 1-1 (thinking I had missed something since I was taking photos too) which is why I put that the final was 2-1 (also announced). I'll be sure to be more careful with what I write in future posts. Also, I had no control over what questions the audience asked the team during Q&A.


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