Embracing “AM” Hockey

The first ever Milwaukee Admirals “School Day” game held at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena featured a perfect storm of an atmosphere created by the fans and one made from a brilliant overtime win for the Admirals over their Amtrak Rivals. (Photo Credit: Sara Stathas)

Last season, the Milwaukee Admirals had their first ever “School Day” game which featured a 10:30 AM CST start time. The game took place on 11/11/15 against the then named Lake Erie Monsters at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. It was an adventurous project as far as logistics of bringing in various schools and moving them in and out effectively. It ended up being one so successful that it made all the sense in the world for the Admirals to do it twice this season at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena.

In that inaugural event the Admirals attendance was a solid 12,972. That alone was fantastic but the grand total of 11,047 students in attendance that day was even more so. The crowd was treated to a rowdy 6-3 win for the Admirals in a game that lived up to the energy provided in the building that morning.

When it came time to attempt doing the feat once again, but at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena, it was yet another successful blending of atmosphere created by the school crowd in attendance as well as the way the game transpired.

The Admirals second “School Day” game took place on 11/9/16 and pitted them against their Amtrak Rivals the Chicago Wolves. It was once again a 10:30 AM CST start time and this go around saw an attendance of 8,631 fans. It has been said time and time again by players that the “O’Reilly Auto Parts Minute of Madness” segment that day was one of the loudest atmospheres that they’ve participated in. And it was something that ended up holding from that point forward. The youngsters in attendance knew how to become part of the game. They certainly didn’t hurt the Admirals in the proceedings, either.

In an early glimpse into just how this year’s Admirals squad goes about their business – the Admirals came from behind, forced overtime, and ended up winning 5-4. Much like the inaugural event the frenzied “AM” crowd filled with children from various schools were treated to not just a hockey game – but a great hockey game.

(Photo Credit: Scott Paulus)

What is perhaps best about these events that the Admirals have put on since last season is its ability to create lifelong fans out of those who may have never encountered the sport of hockey prior to attending the “School Day” game. I’ve always felt that the sport lends itself very well for first-time viewers as the game is rather self explanatory, there are minimal stoppages or breaks in the action, and -for in Arena entertainment- when there is a stoppage there is still fun to be had. The sport of hockey is such a humble one and bringing in schools as the Admirals do, seeing that they are educated them on the game, and allowing them to see it in person is a humble gesture as well. I can create a lifelong fan or even see those watching want to try and play the game themselves. It is a really fun sight to sit back and watch kids seeing the sport for possibly the first time and gravitate to it.

Around the American Hockey League it feels like more and more teams are getting these sorts of events organization throughout a yearly schedule. I completely understand the business sense of it: weekday game crowd turning into a big boom. That said, the ramifications of having these games far exceed an attendance total or bottom line. To know that the next super fan for the sport of hockey could be invented under your team’s banner is such a rewarding accomplishment. To get communities actively excited about hockey, being active and going out and participating in the sport itself, is rewarding.

If you just so happened to be -not- working tomorrow or “sick” and are attending the game tomorrow morning I ask of you to do a favor. I want you to really look around when you’re in your seat inside the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. What you’re seeing and hearing is the next wave of fans. That’s a pretty special feeling.

Have you attended either of the Milwaukee Admirals’ “AM” games? What did you think of the experience and crowd atmosphere? Would you be in favor of more “AM” games or do you feel that having two games, such as this season, is the sweet spot?

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