Connecticut has a bit of a sensitive history with hockey. When the Hartford Whalers left us back in 1997, it was hard to know if we would ever find another hockey team to love.
But in 2001, the city of Bridgeport welcomed the Sound Tigers and that question was answered. We were spoiled from the get go, as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers got off to a roaring start. They made it to the Calder Cup finals in their inaugural season. And since then? Well, 9 winning seasons in 15 years of hockey is pretty damn good.
Now, a decade and a half later, the Sound Tigers are the apple of Connecticut’s eye. An affiliate of the NHL’s New York Islanders, they bring top level hockey to a state that longs for it. And when Webster Bank Arena is packed with passionate fans as the Sound Tigers bring home the win, you can tell it means a lot to the city.
That’s why it meant a lot to us when the team invited us down to a practice this year. Not only did we get to watch practice and talk with Coach Brent Thompson, but they also let us strap a GoPro to Captain Ben Holmstrom’s helmet. If that isn’t an intimate look at this team, we don’t know what is! Take a look:
You’d never realize, but this practice was after an off day and three days before their next game. Even coming off a period of rest and with their next competitive day still in the distance, the players were working so hard. Whether it’s running drills, going over strategy, or letting loose with a game of “corner hockey” to end practice, they skate hard, battle for the puck, and leave it all on the ice.
And they do that because Connecticut’s history with hockey is well known. We lost a team we all loved dearly, and that’s not easy to replace. The only thing that might be able to fill that void is a team that works hard, competes at the highest level, and becomes a part of the community.
Thankfully, that team came along. It’s called the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and it’s the team that helped Connecticut fall in love with hockey again.