Tools

As Comets close out season, fans leave lasting impression

By ANNA MEILER

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- A pro hockey dream can take a player to many teams and many cities. Now finishing up their first season, the Comets are leaving with a lasting impression. The Aud is the loudest arena and the fans are the most passionate.

This inaugural season was two decades in the making.

"We've been waiting 20 years," said an excited season ticket holder at the Comets Fan Fest back in October.

The comeback of AHL hockey in Utica has made friday nights fun again.

"It's entertainment, it's quality of life, it's something to do in the middle of winter," said Steve Sperbeck, a Comets fan.

Local hotels, restaurants and bars have benefited from the surge in downtown activity thanks to the games.

"On game days we have more business and we're thrilled," said Joanne Gerace, owner of Tiny's Restaurant.

The Comets have made an impact that stretches far beyond the ice. The players helped clean the streets, inspired little kids, and served meals at the Rescue Mission. Now at the end of the season, players can look back and say the fans have had just as big of an impact on them.

"To come here after last year was a breath of fresh air in a sense. People are so passionate here and so excited. It's a tight knit community and a hockey community at that," said Comets forward, Brandon DeFazio.

Fans stayed faithful even after a rocky start, selling out over half of their 38 home games.

"Fans could've easily stopped coming after we went 0-10, but they continued to show up and support and we knew that and it gave us something to play for too," said Comets forward David Marshall.

It was that support that kept their playoff dreams alive until the very end.

"It's been a long stretch run here and to have that support every day at every game, it brings out the best in you. You want people no matter what you're doing to care about what you're doing and to have that here, it's been a huge help ," said DeFazio.

Now, as the final buzzer sounds, these players just want to say...

"Thanks so much for coming out with all the support. It was a pleasure to play for you guys," said Comets defense Frank Corrado.

Connect with Anna on Facebook and Twitter.

What's On