Best of the West -- Ams' fans rise to the top

By Annie Fowler, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 12, 2012 

They come in droves. Young and old alike. Dressed in team jerseys, waving American flags and tossing confetti.

The Tri-City Americans fans love their hockey, and this year, so do the players, coaches and broadcasters in the Western Conference, who voted the Tri-City fans Best of the West.

It's the first time the Tri-City fans have won the category. The win ended a six-year run by the Everett Silvertips' fans.

"It's overdue," Tri-City coach Jim Hiller said. "That is just great; it's well deserved. Our organization can take a lot of pride in that."

Americans fans number on average 4,700 per game at Toyota Center, which holds 5,734.

The fan category was just one of six the Americans won in this year's Best of the West poll.

Bob Tory was named the top executive after putting together another quality team. Adam Hughesman was named Best Overage Player, Patrick Holland was the Most Underrated Player, Ty Rimmer the Most Improved Player and Brendan Shinnimin the Top Faceoff Man.

The Americans also had several players sprinkled throughout the categories, especially Shinnimin, who was second to Hughesman in the overage category, second in the Most Irritating Player, fourth in Best Skater and fifth in Most Accurate Shot.

Holland also finished in the top six in five categories, while Feser was a top-six pick in three. Rimmer also finished second in Best Goaltender behind three-time winner Calvin Pickard of Seattle.

The only multi-category winner was Ryan Murray of Everett, named the Best Skater and Best Pro Prospect.

The Tri-City players appreciate their fans, and captain Mason Wilgosh was quick to sing their praises.

"The fans, it doesn't matter if we are winning or losing, they are behind us 100 percent," Wilgosh said. "Whether we have 2,500 or 5,000 fans, they are loud every night, and we appreciate the support we get, and we thank them for that."

Wilgosh said the Tri-City fans differ from those in other WHL cities.

"Some fans expect a lot from their team," Wilgosh said. "But our fans are here to have fun and cheer us on. When we are in other rinks, I try to block out their fans, or use their comments as motivation."

Brad Ross of Portland knows all too well the snide comments he and his teammates will face every time they play at Toyota Center, but it doesn't seem to faze the Winterhawks, who gave the Americans half of their top votes.

"The fans here are passionate and loud," Ross said. "They don't like us much, but that brings out the best in us and makes for a good battle out there."

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