GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A sign of victory now hangs in Van Andel Arena.
The Grand Rapids Griffins raised their 2017 Calder Cup championship banner over the ice Friday evening.
It was special night for season ticket holders Diane and Ray Collins of Muskegon, who hold a special love for hockey and the Griffins.
“I got all choked up and everything. I been so excited,” said Ray Collins, who said he watched the June championship game maybe half a dozen times.
“It gave me goosebumps,” Diane Collins said. “It’s just is so cool to see these young guys down there that hopefully you’ll see playing for the Red Wings.”
Of course, the players thought it was pretty special, too.
“I think this last ceremony is kind of turning the page to a new season. One more time to celebrate with the city, the fans, and then it’s back to work,” forward Eric Tangradi, an associate captain this year, told 24 Hour News 8 before the banner raising.
“I’m kind of taking it as a little bit of a closing ceremony, sort of tying a ribbon on last year,” defenseman Joey Hicketts agreed. “Raising a banner in front of these fans, it should be a great night. I’m really excited and I know the guys are as well.”
The Griffins beat the Syracuse Crunch in six games to earn the cup. It was their second time winning the championship, but the first time they did it on home ice. As the buzzer sounded, the crowd erupted in to wild cheers and thrilled players collided into a group hug. A few days later, hundreds of people rallied in downtown Grand Rapids to celebrate the victory.
“The crowds in the playoffs, this place was bananas; I mean, it was something else. It was very special,” Tangradi said. “It made me and everyone in that dressing room excited to get back just for the regular season. We now know that we’ve set some expectations for ourselves as players in this city, and hopefully they can come out and support us the same way they did in the playoffs.”
Team members are expected to get their championship rings late this month or early next month. Last week, 24 Hour News 8 got a look at how those rings are being crafted at local factory Terryberry.
The Griffins also unveiled their Western Conference Championship banner Friday. Following the ceremony, they opened the 2017-2018 season versus the Manitoba Moose.
“We know that we have a target on our back the rest of the season as champions and it’s going to be a tough season,” Tangradi said.
Looking forward to the coming season, Griffins head coach Todd Nelson has been warning his team not to fall victim to a so-called championship hangover.
“When you look at Cleveland, two years ago they won the cup and then last year, they got off to a slow start and never recovered and they weren’t in the playoffs,” Nelson said. “So we’ve got to take a lesson from that and hopefully get off to a good start.”
That didn’t appear to be a problem Friday: The Griffins beat the Moose 5-2.>>App users: Game highlights–24 Hour News 8’s Barton Deiters contributed to this report.
>>App users: Photos of banner raising
—Online:Grand Rapids Griffins