“The right thing to do for our loyal fans” is how one of the Silverbacks owners explained their offer to pay for the bus and admission tickets so a bus load of Salmon Arm fans could cheer on the Silverbacks at their game in Vernon last Friday. To heighten the fun, they offered prizes of $250 for the two craziest dressed fans.
A big hairy gorilla, a strange clown with a skull chin, two fans dressed in tutus, others sporting purple hair and face tattoos – just part of the contingent of 55 people on board the bus and the 30 fans who drove down to Vernon to enthusiastically cheer “Go ‘Backs Go” through three periods.
It’s a given that money and hard work are not enough to mount and maintain a Junior A hockey team. Fans are a crucial element for financial, motivational, and moral-support reasons.
The Silverbacks organization, from the owners through the GM and coaches to the players, recognizes what a wonderful asset they have in the Salmon Arm fans.
“Fans are an integral part of the Junior hockey experience. From the players’ perspective, the fans give the extra motivational push that comes from representing a community. I have also found that fans tend to be much more patient with Junior teams as opposed to professional teams in terms of success as long as they see a lot of hard work and effort. We are lucky in Salmon Arm; the fans are very positive and supportive,” said Head Coach and GM Scott Atkinson.
GM Troy Mick agreed with Atkinson.
“The Silverbacks fans are some of the best in the league. The players love to come out to our cheering fans and know they can depend on their fans to be both knowledgeable and loyal,” he said.
Some players echoed the views of their coach and general manager.
“The fans in Salmon Arm are like none other. They are very supportive and super noisy. I can’t even begin to thank the fans for everything they have done for our team,” said team captain Grayson Constable.
“It energizes the players knowing that we have an active and always encouraging crowd,” said forward Trevor Adams.
Defenceman Marcus Mitchell said he also appreciates the fan support.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be here in Salmon Arm,” he said
“I’d say fans make the entire experience of the game. The size and volume of the crowd is something we feed off as players. It also gives us more satisfaction and excitement when we are able to play well and win in front of passionate fans,”said forward Josh Latta.
The players are not just referring to fans at their home games. They are aware of the little troop of Super Fans who turn up at most, if not all, of their away games, sometimes even out-cheering the hometown crowd. For example, Lorraine and Doug Ibbitson have attended 95 per cent of the Silverbacks games over the past seven years, both home and away.
Mick summed it up: “The ownership is committed to this amazing town and has stepped up to the plate with this free road trip to Vernon. In all my years, I don’t think this has been done before.”
Although the game in Vernon did not go the Silverbacks’ way, they had a dedicated group of fans cheering them on for the whole game.
-Sue Kershaw writes a weekly online newsletter for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks.