They arrive to the arena on game night decked out in shades of purple, silver, black and white. They fill the stands with the team colours and the air with passionate cheers, ringing cowbells and pounding drums. They are the Salmon Arm Silverbacks’ super-fans.
Along with the casual fans who come to the Shaw Centre to enjoy an evening of fast-paced BCHL action, there is a cadre of season-ticket holding die-hards who attend most home games and in some cases even follow the team on the road. Among them are Ron and Joyce Aubert who have been season ticket holders since the team’s inaugural season in 2001. The couple attend every home game they are able to together and Joyce often hits the road for games in neighbouring cities such as Vernon, Merritt and Penticton.
“We’ve suffered through worse and enjoyed better,” Ron said of this year’s team’s losing record.
“Win or lose we’re here.”
Joyce stands out from the crowd because her Silverbacks Jersey is complimented by purple and white flowers in her hair and a small stuffed gorilla that she calls Baby Kong. Her cowbell and cheers rang out over the G section as the Silverbacks picked up a thrilling over-time win against the Prince George Spruce Kings on Jan. 7.
Across the aisle from the Auberts sit Mary Clarridge and Marilynn Morrison, five and 10-year season ticket holders respectively. Clarridge said Grayson Constable and Tanner Campbell are among her favourite players on this year’s squad. Morrison and Clarridge show their Silverbacks pride with matching purple jackets and scarves with the team’s logo.
Booming over the din of the crowd is a handmade drum constructed and played by Gerry Thomas. Thomas can often be seen standing at the top of section C drumming to fire up the numerous season-ticket holders and other fans who sit in the section. He pauses to let passing children tap out their own beat.
Thomas’ drum is made of moose hide. He gets all the Silverbacks players to sign it and donates it to be auctioned off for charity at the end of each season.
“Win or lose I’m here for them they’re our team, a part of our community,” he said.
Standing next to Thomas at the Jan. 7 game was Barry Dunn, another longtime season ticket holder.
“He’s a little noisy sometimes but it gets the rest of us fired up,” Dunn said of the one-man percussion section to his right.
Dunn said he thinks this year’s team’s youth and inexperience compared to previous squads is showing, but also that they are very fast on their skates. He added recent trades aimed at adding more size and strength to the team will help as the regular season moves on towards the playoffs.
Angie Gunson, another fan cheering the ‘Backs on at the Jan. 7 game said she has been coming to games for the past eight years and has held a season ticket for five. Gunson was one of several fans who made the trek to Merritt for the game on Jan. 6.
“There’s a lot of talent on this year’s team she said.”
As the Silverbacks continue to improve their game on the ice and compete hard for a spot in the 2018 playoffs one thing remains certain: Their loyal fans will cheer them on every step of the way.