A handful of hockey fans displayed some serious passion for their team prior to Wednesday’s Western Hockey League contest between the host Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips.
Hours before the opening puck dropped, four Silvertips fans were preparing to support their team with a pre-game tailgate party in the parking lot of the Credit Union iplex despite the chilly conditions and blustering winds.
Among the dedicated Silvertips fans were Doris and Tom Rupert, who have been following the team’s East Division road swing on a road trip that began from their home town of Stanwood, Washington.
“We just want to support the team. We have great camaraderie with all the fans. I take a lot of photos and post them on the forum. Everyone tells me it makes them feels like they are on the trip and it keeps them enthusiastic,” explained Doris Rupert.
The Ruperts have been Silvertips season tickets holders for 10 years, since day one when the franchise joined the WHL in 2003-04.
They live 60 kilometers from the Comcast Arena in Everett, where the Silvertips play their home games.
The Ruperts have watched their team play in every single WHL arena over the past 10 seasons. This is the second time they have made the East Division swing and have made the Central Division road swing three or four times as well.
They were on the road for two weeks in total to see the Tips play games against all six East Division teams over nine days.
She said they enjoy travelling to the prairies where hockey seems to be in everyone’s blood.
“The people here are great. When I am talking to them I feel like I am talking to history. The hockey history, we have it in the States, but when you come here it seems like everybody knows hockey.”
They met up with fellow Silvertips fans Tony and Jess who flew into Winnipeg and rented a car.
“The games are awesome to be at to support the boys when they are away. It is a good feeling and I have heard that they appreciate that and that’s cool.”
The Ruperts are a part of the Everett Hockey Fanatics back home.
“We have a fan club and we meet at every Sunday home game and have a big tailgate party. So we bring it here,” she explained of their chilly tailgate party.
This year’s team has gotten off to a rough start but played a solid road game to defeat the Broncos 3-1 that evening.
Isn’t that where they just hit each other and you have to watch about getting with a puck? - Doris Rupert
“Well they have had a little slow start. But right now on the swing they are playing hard and they are getting it together. I think they just need to get it together and get that camaraderie going,” she said prior to the team’s third win of the season.
Rupert said she was not a hockey fan until the team came to Everett and her daughter, husband, and son-in-law convinced her to get season tickets although she was reluctant at first.
“I said no. Isn’t that where they just hit each other and you have to watch about getting with a puck? They laughed and said ‘we are going to do it anyway.’
“After three games and the way that the Silvertips put it together, it is fun it is very interactive, and just learning about hockey, I just got sucked right in,” she explained.
It probably didn’t hurt that the team broke a Canadian Hockey League record with 80 points that season and won the U.S. Division title.
“We have all just taken to the team. It doesn’t matter where you go and you start talking Silvertips, there is always a conversation.”
The annual road trips are not just about hockey for the Ruperts.
“I am kind of an amateur photographer as well and your land is beautiful. My husband and I, we just get the map out, not only between hockey games, and we try and see where we can go for me to take pictures. We check out the museums and we check out a lot of stuff.”
They have had the pleasure of watching a Saskatchewan-born player lead their team for the past few seasons. White City’s Ryan Murray was the second overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and is the team’s captain this season with the NHL lockout so far interrupting his possible professional debut.
“It has been fun. I will never forget the first time he played for us. We were in the playoffs a couple of years ago and we were in Tri-City and they brought him on board. Wow, I was amazed just watching him, he was so young then, still is, but an awesome kid. Just to watch him, his style, he seems so humble and I think that is great,” said the passionate fan.