For one night, it was as if the spring of 2008 had come rushing back to US Bank Arena. It was a Wednesday night and the lower bowl was mostly full; 5200 people all united on the edge of their seats, breathing and screaming in unison with every terrorizing second of a one-goal game, breathless with every flick of Brett Robinson’s stick or snap of Robert Mayer’s glove. It was do or die.
You fail, and you’re booking tee time and packing your car for home.
Win, and you’ll live to see another week.
For the greater part of May thus far, the Cyclones lived on a thin wire: lose, and it’s over. The Reading Royals had four chances to send them home, but a poetically-perfect goal by one of the few remaining members of the 2008 team – now-captain Barret Ehgoetz – sent the Royals home, instead.
For one night, it really was as if 2008 had come back to life. Aubin. Ehgoetz. Poised, acrobatic goaltending. A swollen, enthusiastic crowd. Techno music in warmups that set the pace of your heartbeat for the entire game. Tears. Trophies. Writing new banners to hang in the rafters come October.
Most of that team has moved on. To Europe, to the AHL, to greener pastures elsewhere. Some are still here (Ehgoetz, Reynolds, although injured). Some have found their way home (Aubin). But what has not moved on from those days is the pride in the fans. In 2006 when Chuck Weber and the current incarnation of the Cyclones arrived, the fans had heart. There were nights when 2,000 was a crowd to be excited about. Then there were playoffs.
And playoffs. And playoffs. And playoffs. Four seasons. Four deep playoff runs. Conference Finals three times in four years, Kelly Cups finals twice. Breaking records and making history like it’s nothing. The winning tradition continues to live on and the pride in Cincinnati continues to grow. And for the continuing, and growing fan support, I salute you, Cyclones fans. Carry on, and see you next week.
Side note: According to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jean-Michel Daoust has signed a two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild.