By Bill Vilona
Contributing Writer for the Pensacola Ice Flyers
November 8, 2019 – Each year, the Ice Flyers have made a staple request when the Southern Professional Hockey League arranges the season schedule.
They want a Saturday home game on Veteran’s Day weekend. The connection is natural. The area military ties are numerous. The interest is noticeable.
“I have always chosen to play on this Saturday for years, because it is around Veterans Day,” said Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris.
So it will happen again when the Ice Flyers (2-2) face the Birmingham Bulls (3-1-1) on Saturday (7 p.m.) in their first home game since Oct. 19 on Military Appreciation Night. The two teams play Friday night in Birmingham.
The home promotions include $13 center-ice seats for active and retired military and family, specialty-theme, team merchandise on sale and a post-game reception with players for all fans in attendance at the Bay Center.
Harris, who has made honoring area military members for ceremonial, face-offs, part of each game, is also attending Saturday’s Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show.
“The military is everywhere in our community and it’s hard not to be impacted by someone with close proximity to the military with the amount of bases we have nearby,” Harris said. “And I know there is always going to be other things going on this weekend, but I always want to play on Saturday.
“I think this is a very event driven town and so it is what is. We’ve had plenty of time to promote it and that’s the other advantage of having three weeks off. We’ve had a good advance sale. You have a lot of time to promote and a lot of time for the word to spread.”
“If a military person wants to bring 10 people, we want to recognize that, too. We want to make sure it’s a special night for them as well.”
The Ice Flyers will unveil patriotic versions of hats, T-shirts, hoodies with the team logo for fans to purchase.
“We purposely delayed doing that until this weekend,” Harris said. “It’s such a big focus for everyone in this area, so it’s definitely one of our core values to make sure we are doing things for the military,” he said.
The Ice Flyers are coming off two road losses against the Fayetteville (N.C.) Marksmen last weekend. They have played the fewest games among SPHL teams due to arena availability.
While it was unusual for the season to begin at home in mid-October, then take an extended gap between games, Harris reminded players this week of past teams facing a similar challenge.
“It will happen again at the end of February with Pensacon and some of the Mardi Gras balls at the Bay Center,” he said. “But we won three championships with a very similar schedule, so you can’t say the schedule has affected us that much.
“It’s all about our approach. How do you approach this type of schedule, this type of adversity? We won doing it before.”
The Ice Flyers were able to practice at the Bay Center this week and get back into a normal routine. It was their first availability to skate at the arena since their last home game.
“We understand this is a multi-use facility and the building needs to book events and we adjust and make the best of it. At the start of the year, it’s tough to get into a routine, so just having this week and next week to get into a routine should help.”
WANT TO GO?
WHO: Birmingham Bulls vs. Ice Flyers
WHEN: Saturday 7 p.m.
WHERE: Pensacola Bay Center
RADIO: WPNN (103.7 FM)
PROMOTION: Military Appreciation Night. Active duty, retired and veterans with military ID can purchase center ice tickets at Bay Center box office for 35-percent discount. They will also receive 10-percent discount on merchandise. All fans in attendance can attend post-game reception with players in the VIP area conference rooms inside the main entrance.