WINNIPEG, Manitoba | It was over a half-hour after the Hershey Bears clinched the 2009 Calder Cup when radio play-by-play man and PR director John Walton got down to the ice. A surreal scene greeted him: An empty MTS Centre but an ice surface full of elated players and a big trophy.
“Even though the stands were empty, the celebration was still going on,” Walton said Thursday. “Almost everyone and the Cup – everything was still out there.”
Walton and then Hershey coach Bob Woods described a scene that seems almost out of a movie. The game was “anticlimactic,” Walton said, because of three first-period goals. Coming after a draining Game 5 loss back home, that was a welcome sight.
But when it was all over, going back home was the furthest thing from their mind.
“You try to savor every moment you can spend together and anytime you win a championship like that,” Woods said. “And we had such a great group that year, just to see them all rewarded with that big shiny thing, you want to take it all in. Nobody wanted to leave. We wanted to stay together. It was great.”
Walton was part of three Calder Cup championships in Hershey, but this is the first one he was able to join in on the celebration on the ice. Returning to MTS Centre with the Capitals for Thursday night’s game, nostalgia filled his voice.
“For me, I’ll always have wonderful memories here. The families were here. Tyler Sloan and his dad, Fred, watching father and son on the ice – that’s one I’ll always remember,” Walton said. “It was nice because when you got back to Hershey it was shared with everybody, but the plane ride home it was just us.”
As much as no one wanted to leave, there was a plane to catch and Hershey fans waiting back at the airport – many of whom also celebrated at Giant Center. But MTS Centre was the scene of the win, making it special for everyone who was a part of the title.
“Anytime you win a championship, you always remember the building you were in – and we had a good time,” Woods said. “We didn’t get to hang around here too long, but I thought the fans here really treated us well and showed us a lot of respect. It just made for a pretty memorable situation.”