Livin' After Midnight
Late-morning start times have become somewhat familiar to minor league fans by now, as a number of teams (the Rock Cats and Wolf Pack among them) have added 11:00am games to their schedule for the benefit of school field trips and such. Then there are the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL, who have gone in the completely opposite direction by holding some of their games at midnight. Their most recent midnight game, held last week, even featured a live performance from a midget Kiss tribute band! Throw in the fact that the Wranglers' NHL affiliate is the Calgary Flames, and you can begin to see a pattern: Sin City... the stroke of midnight... Kiss... midgets wearing boots... Flames... you can spell 'hell' by rearranging the letters to ECHL (almost)... I mean, what could be more Satanic, right?!? No way there's gonna be a whiny pack of schoolkids taking a field trip to one of these games! Is this a great idea, or what?
Kudos to Soundin' Off, which is where I first found the link to this article recapping the Wranglers' midnight festivities, written by Rob Miech of the Las Vegas Sun:
The commoner might have a difficult time fitting a late-afternoon nap, or after-dinner snooze, into his schedule to have the proper reserves to last through a midnight hockey game. But Las Vegas isn't an average city. And its Wranglers aren't a common ECHL franchise.
"I like them. I've been to every one of them," said John Geier, 64. "It is unique to Las Vegas, because of all the different (work) shifts here. This crowd seems larger than the last two."
An announced crowd of 4,958 didn't peak until the second half of the second period. A few fans strolled down the aisle with double-fisted beers, and the festive crowd became more intense as the drama built.
Jeff Pagan (See? The guy's name is Pagan! Satan!!), a 55-year-old limousine driver who went to the game after his shift, smiled widely as he made his way to a restroom when regulation play ended at 2:17 a.m. The game fit into his schedule perfectly. "Because I have tomorrow off," Pagan said. You mean today? "Right!" he said. "Midnight games get you because you never know what time it is."
A closer look at the night's -- and morning's -- events:
11:40 p.m. -- In a corner of the bottom of the horseshoe, a spotlight shines on Mini Kiss, the diminutive tribute band. The two guitarists' instruments are nearly bigger than they are.
11:43 p.m. -- Mini-Gene (Simmons) waggles his maxi-tongue to an in-house camera, shown on a large screen at the open end of the arena, for the first time.
11:48 p.m. -- The eyelids start feeling as heavy as garage doors as the little face-painted group blares "I Was Made For Lovin' You."
11:51 p.m. -- Mini-Gene yells, "Can you get enough of me, Las Vegas?"
"Who you callin' mini-peter?!?"
11:54 p.m. -- The spotlight goes out on Mini Kiss, but the public-address announcer says, "Don't worry fans. Mini Kiss will return during the first intermission."
11:58 p.m. -- Speakers air the sound of a gong being banged 12 times.
12:04 a.m. -- The first puck is dropped.
12:15 a.m. -- Chris Stanley scores for the Wranglers 7 1/2 minutes into the game, and Elvis Presley's "Viva Las Vegas!" further fuels the fans.
12:41 a.m. -- Mini Kiss blurts out a rendition of "Crazy Train," Ozzy Osbourne's big hit. Huh? And Mini-Paul is actually a female? Say it ain't so.
1:01 a.m. -- During timeouts and other lulls, the big video screen shows various fans dancing and frolicking. But the three-second delay, new to this season's midnight game, might be working; no cameras have shown female flashers.
1:11 a.m. -- Four minutes after the Wranglers trim the deficit to 4-3, a group at the right tip of the horseshoe, in Section 101, tries to start the wave. After three unsuccessful attempts, they quit. This crowd, it seems, is mostly a savvy group that is more interested in how the Wranglers kill penalties.
1:13 a.m. -- The moment of truth. Duke, the Wranglers' green furry mascot, is surrounded by three women as "The Stripper", the famous horn-blaring strip-tease music by David Rose & His Orchestra, screams from the speakers. A voluptuous woman in blue teases Duke and a seated man, slowly turning and raising her sweater before ... the camera cuts back to the action on the ice.
1:16 a.m. -- A Wranglers charge fails. "You're passing the puck like my grandma!" yells someone at the front of Section 103. "Skate!"
1:31 a.m. -- At the second intermission, Mini-Gene sits shotgun on the Zamboni as the ice is treated with a shiny new layer. Or was it Mini-Peter?
2:13 a.m. -- A fan high atop Section 103 yells "More cowbell!", at someone ringing a cow bell, at the front of Section 104. He should have yelled for more goals, too. The Wranglers' 24 shots in the third period are a club record.
2:17 a.m. -- "This is great", said Pagan, the limo driver, during the intermission between the third period and the four-on-four, five-minute overtime. "This crowd reflects Las Vegas. It's crazy and a great scene. I think we need more of these, like two or three a year."
2:32 a.m. -- Charles Linglet, who had been struck in the chin from behind by Dan Watson's stick 30 minutes earlier, slaps the puck into the roof of the net manned by Long Beach goalie Greg Hewitt to give the Wranglers a 3-2 edge in the shootout.
2:36 a.m. -- As the fans file out of the building into a 40-degree morning, they are serenaded by Elvis. "How I wish that there were more than 24 hours in the day ... blackjack, poker and the roulette wheel" ... and hockey.