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Pete's View - February and March 2011

Pete Michaud is The Voice of the Admirals. He bring 19 seasons of experience with the team to the airwaves in 2010-11. He has been the team's play-by-play broadcaster for each of the past 12 seasons. In addition to his work with the Admirals, Michaud also calls Norfolk Tides AAA baseball games.

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March 4, 2011 - Hello again, Admirals fans. The Admirals had a great win on Wednesday night at Scope, thumping Hershey, and now prepare for a difficult weekend with road games in Albany tonight, in Hershey tomorrow night and in Binghamton on Sunday. The team seems to be finding its stride once again, going 3-0-0-2 over the past five games. Norfolk hopes it can find the same kind of success it enjoyed on the road last weekend, claiming three of four possible points in Wilkes-Barre and in Atlantic City against Albany.

Speaking of Atlantic City, I mentioned in my last blog what a unique experience it was to go there for the first time. I wanted to give you a quick glimpse inside the arena, Boardwalk Hall, where the Admirals played the Albany Devils on February 27.

Boardwalk Hall was originally known as Atlantic City Convention Hall when it opened in the 1920s. When the city opened the new Atlantic City Convention Center in 1997, to avoid confusion between the two buildings, the older building became known as Boardwalk Hall.

Boardwalk Hall, as you can tell by the name, is located right on the famous Atlantic City boardwalk. The structure, which is now a registered national historic landmark, is probably best known as the longtime home of The Miss America Pageant. You can see the main stage of the arena behind one goal in the picture to the left. Most Miss American winners, and famous performers like Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, have graced that stage over the years.

Boardwalk Hall has also hosted many major boxing events, concerts, wrestling shows, indoor college football and, of course, hockey. The Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL played in the arena from 2001-05, winning a league title in 2003 under the direction of former Admirals coach Mike Haviland.

The Admirals came very close to having a unique tie to Atlantic City and Boardwalk Hall. We often think of the ECHL Admirals and the AHL Admirals as one in the same, as if the lower level team just moved from one league to another, because they share the same name and play in the same city and arena. While we do speak of the Admirals as a singular hockey entity for historical purposes, it really isn't true. If the Cleveland Browns and a bunch of other sports teams do it, though, we can, too!

When the AHL Admirals came to Norfolk and began play in 2000, the franchise that was the ECHL Hampton Roads Admirals had to go elsewhere. Plans were made to move the ECHL club to Atlantic City, where they would begin play as the Atlantic City Admirals in the 2000-01 season. At that time, Boardwalk Hall was in the midst of a $90-million restoration. The 'old girl' had fallen into a state of disrepair over the years, but was being brought back to life. The Admirals moved a small staff into Atlantic City to begin preparations about a year ahead of time. The community didn't really respond at that time, though. Advance season ticket sales were disappointing, and the ECHL Admirals' relocation plans were eventually dropped. (By the way, the ECHL Admirals franchise eventually moved to Columbus, Georgia and became the Columbus Cottonmouths, just in case you were wondering.)

Hockey did return to the city and Boardwalk Hall a few years after that with the Boardwalk Bullies, however, and it would seem that Atlantic City might once again be in the market for a hockey team. Attendance has been respectable for the four or five games the building has hosted this season. Both the ECHL Trenton Titans and the Albany Devils have hosted games in Atlantic City this year, sparking speculation that one may be looking to make a move to the Jersey shore. I don't know if the town can support an AHL team over the course of a 40-game home schedule, but I'd have no argument going to Boardwalk Hall a few times a season.

Well, that is it for now. I hope you enjoyed the look inside Boardwalk Hall and a little history lesson along with it. I will try to check in from the road trip in another day or two. Until then …

March 1, 2011 - Well, the club just finished up a pretty good weekend, taking five of a possible six points with wins over Charlotte and Albany and a shootout setback at Wilkes-Barre. It was kind of nice to get back to on the road after spending most of February at home, but it also served as a quick reminder how tiring life on the road can be.

Perhaps the highlight of last weekend was a first trip to Atlantic City for the Admirals for a game against the Albany Devils. There's no mistaking what city you're in when you visit Atlantic City, as the photo here shows. No one knows for sure if Atlantic City, which served as home to an ECHL team a few years ago, will get a pro team again, or if they'll host games again in the future, so it was nice to soak in the environment, should we never return.

Atlantic City is probably best known worldwide for two things ...the casino hotels that frame the city skyline and The Miss America Pageant. While the pageant moved from Atlantic City a few years ago, the iconic event still looms large in the town. In fact, the hotel the team stayed at this past weekend features several of the famous gowns worn by Miss America winners over the years in the lobby, as well as the symbolic crown and scepter worn by the winners. Here you can see the gown and headdress worn by the first Miss America winner in 1921, Margaret Gorman.

The pageant and its place in Atlantic City history struck me over the weekend because the same building the Admirals played in Sunday, Boardwalk Hall (formerly known as Atlantic City Convention Center), served as the Miss America venue from 1921 through 2004. It was on the stage just behind the goal to my left that Bert Parks sang 'Here She Is, Miss America' all those years. Here is a nice, outside view of the building entrance from the famous Atlantic City boardwalk. By the way, Hampton Roads' only Miss America winner was Nicole Johnson of Virginia Beach, who won the title in 1999.

As the long-time home of Miss America, you would expect Boardwalk Hall to be more than your 'run of the mill' arena. It did not disappoint. While certainly an old building, it has an aura of the glamour of the 1930s or '40s, with columns and arches, paintings and vivid colors throughout the building. I'll give you a look inside in my next blog entry in a day or two.

Until then…

February 22, 2011 - Hi again everyone. It’s been great to have so much time at home this month. It just reminds me, however, how exhausted I get during our regular road trips.

The fun on the road kicks up again this weekend. After Friday’s big home matchup with Charlotte, we’re off to Wilkes-Barre for Saturday night and then a Sunday afternoon game in Atlantic City against Albany. The Devils have hosted several games in Atlantic City already this season. I’m not a gambler, but I am hoping we might delay the bus trip home after the game until midnight. We play at 4pm and could be on the road by 7:30 or so, but it would be nice to have three or four hours to wander Atlantic City!

Anyway, I had a recent idea come to me that really hit home on Saturday when several of the players in for the alumni game came in for a tour of the locker room before their game. Many barely recognized it.

The locker room underwent a major transformation before this season. That doesn’t mean much to most of you reading this, because you don’t know what it looked like before the renovation. Many fans have come to games for years, but have never seen our locker room, which is a bit of a shame. So, I thought I would give you a look inside. Some teams are very secretive about their locker rooms, but Head Coach Jon Cooper gave me the ‘o.k.’ to let you take a look around.

When the players go off the ice, they pass through a doorway into a tiny area, about the size of a big closet, where they work on their sticks before games. From there, a small entry way takes them into the locker room. Photo #1 shows you the view as they walk in. The goalies always sit just to the left as you enter, closest to the door.

The locker room features a beautiful Admirals logo in the carpet right in the middle of the room. NO ONE is to EVER walk on the logo! That is a major no-no!

Photo #2 is taken from the back of the room. It shows the coaches’ board at the front of the room. The coaches put the line combinations on the board each day so the players know who is in and out of the lineup and what the line combinations will be. There is also a flat screen TV that is used to show the guys video clips for instructional purposes.

I’ve included a few other photos to give you some different angles. The work that was put in during the off-season was really amazing, so I thought you’d like to see it.

If you look closely at Photo #3, you will see an opening that leads to another room right between the jerseys of James Wright (#16) and Scott Jackson (#22). That opening goes directly to the areas where the showers, hot tub and whirlpools are located.

That opens on the other side into a room where the players change clothes, watch TV, grab a snack or do a bit of relaxing, when time allows. The ‘change’ room, as it is called, is connected to the trainer’s room on one end, and the coaches’ room and equipment manager’s room on the other end. I’ll probably show you around the rest of the place in another blog.

Hope you enjoyed the look around. We’ll see you at Scope!

View December 2010 and January 2011's editions of Pete's View
View October and November 2010's editions of Pete's View

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