by Kyle Zawieja | AHL On The Beat Archive
A new building. A new affiliation. A new season.
Just about everything has been new for the 2015-16 San Antonio Rampage. And if that wasn’t enough, even the team’s first home game-day experience was unfamiliar, as they stepped foot into the AT&T Center for the first time on Oct. 24, several hours before their home opener against the Stockton Heat.
The AT&T Center undergoing $110 million in renovations over the summer meant significantly more practices at Northwoods, the Rampage’s practice facility when the arena isn’t available, early in the season. So this wasn’t just the first time this team had set foot in the home locker room this season — it was the first time ever.
Things as simple as finding the locker room and walking the path from there to the ice provided fresh experiences for every player, some of whom have played at the AT&T Center as part of the visiting team but have never called it home until now.
The team explored their new surroundings, taking in the view of the bowl and newly-hung center video board from the north tunnel of the building, which would later be lined with pyrotechnics and flashing lights as each player was introduced to a loud and raucous crowd excited to see this new team for the first time.
There was a genuine, palpable excitement for the game ahead.
Just as the Rampage adjust to their new NHL affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche, so too is the team adjusting to their new homes and lifestyles in the Lone Star State. While the move from Cleveland to Texas has been drastic on many levels, it’s brought with it a lot of positive change.
“I was in Cleveland for four years and it’s definitely a place that’s close to my heart, but it seems like here in San Antonio the weather is unbelievable,” said forward Joey Hishon. “We have been able to get out golfing and get outside and do a lot of different things that we weren’t able to do in the cold weather in Cleveland.”
“It’s nice to walk out of the arena and its 80 degrees out and sunny,” added Andrew Agozzino, who leads the team with four goals so far this season. “It makes you feel nice.”
The team has taken their competitive nature outside the rink, taking advantage of the nice weather and hitting the links with some frequency.
“[The other day], we had 13 guys on the golf course, so we had a little tournament-style thing going,” said captain Ben Street, adding that Hishon is the best golfer on the team.
In addition to the weather and the variety of activities San Antonio has to offer, the new team showed their passion for the fan base and the newly renovated AT&T Center.
“The fans were great. There’s a lot of energy in the building,” said Street, who was named the team’s captain prior to the home opener and leads the team with seven assists and eight points. “It’s great building to play in. It’s basically an NHL building.”
San Antonio plays three games on the road — two at Pacific Division-leading Ontario and one at San Diego — before heading back home for a busy November packed with seven home games, including the first three-in-three of the season.