Why isn’t Charlotte as obsessed with the Checkers as I am?
They are the oldest team in Charlotte, by my calculations, and one of the most underrated.
Most winter weeks, the Checkers skate out at Bojangles’ Coliseum to roaring applause and music. Fans crowd in, though almost every game, empty chairs are scattered about. I don’t quite understand the empty chairs as hockey should be more beloved by the city than it is. Here’s why:
They are affordable
Prices for a Panthers ticket? Outrageous. Prices for a Checkers matchup? Reasonable.
When going to a Checkers game, fans can sit behind the glass or in the nosebleeds for a decent price. Usually tickets run $10 to $33.
Concessions are priced the same as any other event at Bojangles’ Coliseum, so for a date night or evening with the family, you are probably getting the most bang for your buck at a Checkers game.
They are accessible
Let’s just say if you wanted to meet a hockey player, you could.
The Checkers offer multiple promotional meet and greets. If you donate to the team’s foundation, the Checkers Charitable Foundation, you are practically a shoe-in to meet a player.
Recently they hosted a Tip-A-Checker event at Pizza Peel in Plaza Midwood. Players served pizza to customers to raise funds for the Checkers Charitable Foundation.
“Our guys, they aren’t movie stars,” Paul Branecky, vice president of communications said. “They are small town guys and among the most relatable.” Branecky said the community is the team’s biggest focus and they strive to win the AHL Community Service Award every year.
I have never walked out of a Checkers game empty handed. Last game, I came out with some free fabric softener, before that it was the schedule magnets.
Most visits to the Checkers games, you can find some free token to take home. Consider it your game flair.
You won’t be bored
If you like action packed events, check out a hockey fight. These players have no hesitation ripping into one another. Sticks break, helmets come off and blood can be seen spewing. And the refs don’t get involved till the fight hits the ice. The games are three 20-minute periods.
One little known fact: the Checkers players support the Carolina Hurricanes. Some nights, you can see players for the ’Canes out playing. “It’s about the sixth year of that arrangement,” Branecky said. Branecky said often the best players in the NHL league have come through a Checkers game a time or two.
Going to a Checkers game is like going to an interactive museum. The team began in 1956, VP of Communications Paul Branecky told me. “They stayed there until 1976 at the Coliseum,” he said. “The history is a little disjointed.”
Branecky said the team broke up after ’76 only to come back in 1993. Branecky said many fans were at the first Checkers game at the Coliseum in ’56, which made the move back so important.
So next time you are wanting to feed the need to support a home team, give the Checkers a try. You won’t be disappointed.
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