Rally towels were flying, and fans were screaming.
If Tuesday night’s Tri-City Americans playoff rally in Kennewick is any indication of things to come, the Americans can expect a lot of support in their Western Hockey League first-round playoff series against the Spokane Chiefs.
“This is an exciting time for our fans, and this is a chance for the organization and the players to say thank you to the fans,” Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. “They support us all year. As important as Friday’s game is, it’s a game. It’s important for us to be strong community members. Tonight, we have a food donation for the senior organization.”
There were a few hundred fans at Three Rivers Convention Center. The event, sponsored by Hawthorne Court for the second year in a row, allowed the fans to meet the players, take photos, get autographs and make posters. There also were games for the kids.
“It’s always good to put on these activities for the fans,” Americans veteran defenseman Drydn Dow said. “It’s our way of giving back.”
The Americans and Chiefs will begin their series Friday and Saturday at Spokane Arena.
Games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, will be played March 26, 28 and 30 at Toyota Center. If needed, Game 6 would be April 2 in Spokane.
If the series stretches to Game 7, Spokane would host the final game April 3.
A group of Hawthorne Court residents joined Tuesday night’s festivities. The Kennewick retirement center has 10 tickets available for residents to use, and they never go to waste. For some games, so many residents want a ticket that they must use a lottery system.
“The first time they were offering them, I signed up,” said Sandy Berkins, a recent transplant from Walnut Creek, Calif. “I didn’t even know what I was signing up for. I’m a new hockey fan, and I love them with all my heart. My kids say, ‘Mother, what is it with you?’ ”
Berkins, 76, is familiar with the Tri-Cities and the surrounding area. Her sister, Ann Taylor, lives here, and Berkins is a 1958 graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla.
Jean Schubert, 82, who also lives at Hawthorne Court, regularly has attended games for three years.
“We came up from Nevada in the 1970s, and we went to a few games over the years,” Schubert said. “It’s good entertainment, and I get excited about it.”
As young kids ran around seeking autographs, Lisa Stanley of Burbank visited with fellow fans.
A 1988 graduate of Columbia (Burbank) High School, Stanley moved to the Portland area years ago and was a Portland Winterhawks season-ticket holder for eight years — even during the lean years.
Last year, she split her time between Portland and the Tri-Cities, and she moved back to Burbank in July.
“This is my first year as an Ams fan,” said Stanley, who was decked out in an Americans T-shirt and hat. “I grew up in the Tri-Cities, but I didn’t know anything about hockey then. I still follow Portland, but I don’t cheer for them when they are here. I like the smallness of the arena here — you can really hear the crowd, and I’ve met a lot of good people.”
Unlike Schubert, who is a “team watcher,” Stanley has been a fan of Americans forward Connor Rankin since he was a rookie.
“I’ve liked him since he came into the league,” she said. “I would watch him when Tri-City would come to Portland.”
Notes: Americans F Jesse Mychan received a 5-minute major for charging and a game misconduct at 10:30 of the third period Sunday against Everett. He did not receive additional punishment from the WHL. ... The Kelowna Rockets, who will play Seattle in the first round, will be without captain Colton Sissons, who will miss up to three months because of an upper-body injury. ... The Victoria Royals will be without center Alex Gogolev, their leading scorer, after he had surgery to repair damage from a skate cut to his left leg. ... D Darren Dietz of the Saskatoon Blades signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens. ... The Rochester Americans (AHL) signed Colin Jacobs (Prince George) to an amateur tryout. Jacobs had 25 goals and 28 assists for the Cougars this season. ... The WHL draft lottery is today in Calgary. The lottery involves the six non-playoff teams. The lottery will have 21 balls — six for Vancouver, five for Prince George, four for Brandon, three for Regina, two for Moose Jaw and one for Lethbridge. Only one ball will be chosen. No matter the outcome, the Giants will pick first or second.
w Annie Fowler: 582-1574; email@example.com; Twitter: @tchicequeen