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Fan atmosphere gives IceHogs home ice advantage

by Leah Pascarella / Chicago Blackhawks
The Rockford IceHogs celebrate their Game 3 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. (Photo courtesy Rockford IceHogs)

There is something different about the BMO Harris Bank Center this season. It’s still home of the Rockford IceHogs, noisy fans still ring their cowbells as they cheer on the team, and Will Smith’s “Boom Shake the Room” continues to play when the IceHogs score. However, there is an electrifying atmosphere that is giving the team a new meaning of home ice advantage.

The IceHogs are in the midst of one of their most successful seasons, and it’s not over yet as they’re currently competing for the 2015 Calder Cup. Success breeds more fans, and that’s exactly what’s happening at the BMO Center in downtown Rockford.

Defenseman Stephen Johns, who joined the club at the tail end of 2013-14, noted increased hockey attention in Rockford in just the past year.

“This whole year our fans have been great,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of sellouts and really good crowds in the middle of the week, which you wouldn’t expect in the AHL. Our fans have been very supportive, and it affects us too. We play really well at home, and a lot of that is because of our fans.”

The IceHogs had a 24-9-4-1 record at home during the 2014-15 regular season, and they’ve won two of three playoff games at the BMO Center so far. The atmosphere not only helps the team to victories, but it also gets more fans excited about the game of hockey.

Ted Dent, Head Coach of the IceHogs, is in his eighth season with the team and has seen the fan presence of the BMO Center evolve over the years.

“Any time you are having success or in the playoffs, like we are this year, the volume and noise level increases and you get the community more involved in the game,” he said.

Director of Business Operations Mike Peck added that there has been a good buzz around the team, which is correlated to a growing attendance at home games.

“With the Blackhawks continuing to have success, the excitement trickles down to Rockford,” Peck said. “Whether it’s capturing more hockey fans around the area or having more fans from Chicagoland making the drive out to Rockford, we’re definitely expanding our fan base.”

The team has even seen more fans on the road in places like Peoria, Des Moines and Milwaukee.

“There are more Blackhawks jerseys in the stands than we’ve seen in the past, and it’s really nice to be supported even when we aren’t at home,” Peck added.

From jersey auctions to Bowl-A-Thons, the IceHogs engage fans by arranging special events to get the players in the community and interact with fans.

“We like our fans to meet the players outside of the rink, out of uniform, to really showcase their personalities and engage with the community,” Peck said. “It helps our fans connect with the players, and they enjoy following their success on the ice.”

Fans won’t be disappointed when they watch a game at the BMO Center. From the in-game entertainment to the passionate fans cheering on the IceHogs, Rockford’s arena is an experience for the whole family.

Rockford is set to compete in Game 5 against Grand Rapids on Sunday at 4 p.m.

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