’Hog heaven: IceHogs UHL champs

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What a wild last few days it has been for the 2006-07 Colonial Cup Champion Rockford IceHogs. More than 6,200 fans were at the MetroCentre to witness a piece of Rockford sports history Thursday night, May 24, as the ’Hogs defeated the Kalamazoo Wings 3-1 in game seven of their championship series.

In their eighth—and final—season in the United Hockey League, the ’Hogs were able to reach the pinnacle of success. In a season that saw its share of adversity and distractions—on and off the ice—the ’Hogs battled through it all, and earned the league’s championship trophy, the Colonial Cup. It was a perfect storybook ending to a saga that began so long ago—when Bill Clinton was still president.

Saturday night, May 26, the team participated in a parade that began at American TV on East State Street and proceeded west past hundreds of fans waving and honking from inside their cars and cheering from under their umbrellas as their heroes passed by. Upon arriving in the downtown area, fans crowded the streets around the MetroCentre with homemade signs thanking the team for the championship and the memories.

Speeches, a video and the unfurling of the 2006-07 Colonial Cup Championship Banner highlighted the rally inside the MetroCentre. Team owners Dr. Kris Tumilowicz and Craig Drektrah thanked the fans, sponsors, media and IceHogs staff for all of their hard work and support over the years. Head Coach Steve Martinson and several of the players who spoke brought the crowd to a roar when they thanked them for “being the greatest fans in the league.”

The UHL championship banner will hang from the ceiling of the newly-renovated MetroCentre next fall when the ’Hogs take the ice for the first time as members of the American Hockey League. Based on the enthusiasm and optimism exhibited over the past few days, I doubt it will take another eight years before the ’Hogs will be adding an AHL championship banner to hang alongside the one that made history this year.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

from the May 30-June 5, 2007, issue

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