This past Saturday marked the Syracuse Crunch’s 25th anniversary opening night. Such a milestone - rare in a league that sometimes seems to change as much as its rosters - would have been momentous on its own, but the night was made even more special by the debut of a new-look arena. The Onondaga County War Memorial underwent some huge upgrades over the summer, and the changes have noticeably changed both the look of the arena and the game day experience for the fans.
Photographer Scott Thomas has once again graciously allowed us to take advantage of his talent this season. We are very lucky to have his images available to us, both to make our entries more eye-catching and to make our front page look even more amazing. Scott was at opening night, and he gave us some amazing shots.
First, the new-look War Memorial. This past summer, a wall in the arena was knocked out to make room for suits (and a VIP club behind them). A new, larger video board replaced the building’s ancient scoreboard, and new ribbon lighting was put in. The building’s older technology that both of those things replaced was installed in 2009, which, if we’re being honest, in technology time meant it was about 100 years old. It was certainly time for an upgrade. Out front, the building’s old letter marque (yes, one of those ones that still used the movable red letters) was replaced with a digital one. You can see these improvements below.
Considering the significance of the milestone that was being celebrated that evening, it only seemed right that the organization invited back some old favorites. Those that were selected were guys that many fans still remember with fondness from the team’s 25-year history, all from a different affiliation. Reggie Savage represented the team’s short affiliation with Vancouver, David Ling was invited as a captain from the Columbus years, and Jon Mirasty represented the Anaheim years. Last, but certainly not least, coming in to thunderous applause for the Lightning years was none other than former captain and current Tampa Bay scout Mike Angelidis.
Adding to the festivities were the Crunch’s mascots, past and present. The original Crunchman was on hand, terrifyingly resplendent in yellow and turquoise (his face is turquoise, for God’s sake), as was AL one and AL two, the team’s ice gorilla mascots from their Blue Jackets and Ducks years. The current Crunchman was also there, of course.
The team also debuted their anniversary highlight video, a montage of memories and achievements that not only honored the Crunch’s history but also spoke to the AHL’s special place in the hockey world. The first part of the video featured almost a minute of highlights from the Crunch’s first AHL game, but I skipped that for you. Feel free to rewind if you feel cheated.
(By the way, that goalie at 2:32 is Karl Goehring. I just needed to point that out.)
Of course, once all of this was done, there was an actual hockey game to play. The night featured silver-toned jerseys with silver outlines. They really were gorgeous, and a fitting tribute to the team’s silver anniversary.
It also featured several firsts. To begin with, Saturday was forward Gabriel Dumont’s first game as captain of the team.
It also was the first home game for the Crunch’s rookies (although some of them, like Cal Foote, got time during the playoffs).
Another first was Oleg Sosunov’s first professional goal, a milestone in and of itself that occurred in the third period.
Unfortunately, the game wasn’t quite the showing that one could figure the team wanted to put up in front of a sold-out home crowd, with Syracuse losing 4-1 to the Charlotte Checkers. Still, it was a night to remember for a lot of good reasons (while probably forgetting the rest).