What better way to spend a school day than taking a field trip to see some good, old-fashioned hockey?
That was the experience of several area students who attended the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena's School Day Game matchup between the Soo Eagles and the Jamestown Ironmen.
On Thursday, the arena played host to nearly 1,300 students in elementary and middle schools throughout Chautauqua County. The Ironmen organization sold 1,264 tickets at a reduced rate to institutions such as the Ashville BOCES and The Resource Center, as well as school districts, including: Cassadaga Valley, Southwestern, Bemus Point and Jamestown. The Jamestown Public Schools district was represented by Persell Middle School, Jefferson Middle School and Love Elementary School.
The game began with an 11 a.m. puck drop, the only Ironmen game of the season to do so. The School Day Game event had been planned far in advance, as it appeared on the schedule when it was released late last summer. Schools were approached at the beginning of the school year by Phil Genco, JSBA's marketing, Web and graphic design manager, who contacted physical education departments to garner interest in the event.
"Some (schools) were interested right away, and others weren't. But, for our first (School Day) event, we had a really great turnout, and we were pretty surprised by the response," said Genco.
The excitement in the air was palpable as the students filed in to fill the majority of the arena. According to Maryanne Martinelli, a fifth-grade teacher at Cassadaga Elementary, her students had been looking forward to the game for a long time.
"We're all excited to be here," she said. "Our gym teachers set this up for us. They thought it would be exciting for our entire school to be here, and we are. We came to cheer (the Ironmen) on because they're our local team."
Carm Proctor, principal of Jefferson Elementary School, said that there were many reasons for her school's involvement in the event.
"We wanted to support the community," she said. "This is a great community establishment, and we're excited that it's in Jamestown. We like to have our kids get involved in as much community activity as they possibly can. Phil Genco contacted Fran Carlson and our other (physical education) teachers and offered this to us. In our building, we used it as an incentive for our students - if they had no discipline referrals for the month of January, they were welcome to come. But it's a great activity and they're having a blast."
She added: "I think that students need to have community involvement, and I think it's really good for the organization, too. A lot of kids don't ever go to these activities, so by getting them here the first time and (having them) really enjoy it, they might come back again with their parents."
The game also utilized its intermission time for educational purposes. During the first intermission, students learned nutritional facts by guessing the amount of sugar in different types of beverages. The second intermission was allotted to the Jamestown Police Department, which provided a brief public safety announcement.
The crowd support was strong as the Ironmen were welcomed before each period to a resounding cheer. At several times throughout the game, students could be heard chanting, "Let's go, Ironmen!" By the end of the game, the Jefferson students had accomplished a decent demonstration of "the wave."
The game provided maximum entertainment as the Ironmen came from behind to tie it up at 2 goals with just over a minute left in regulation, causing the game to head into overtime. After a scoreless 5-minute overtime period, the game ended with an Ironmen loss in a shootout. The Soo Eagles, from Sault St. Marie, Mich., have also performed well this year as they are currently the top team in the North division.
The Jamestown Ironmen franchise, which relocated to Jamestown from the Detroit area in 2011, is a Junior A hockey team and part of the North American Hockey League. The franchise is in the midst of its second season and the team has performed well this year, already surpassing their total number of wins from last season. The Ironmen have been at or near the top of the NAHL's North division for the majority of the season.
According to Kurt Silcott, chief executive officer of the JSBA, the large response that the Ironmen received for the School Day Game event is beneficial to the organization.
"This is a great crowd for our first time doing this, and I think we're going to plan on holding another (School Day Game) next season," said Silcott.