Print Edition: February 1, 2012
Colin Stuart is the ideal fan that the Abbotsford Heat organization is so desperate for. I met Stuart by the beer garden during an intermission last week, as the hometown Heat took on the Chicago Wolves, farm team to the Vancouver Canucks. What caught my eye immediately when I saw Colin was his jersey. It went against everything I stand for as a fan of the Canucks – it was an Abbotsford Heat jersey with a Canucks logo stitched on just under the Heat logo.
I asked Colin about his unique jersey. He explained, “I’m a homer, that’s all.” He explained that he loves the Canucks and he loves the Heat – he doesn’t really see them as Calgary’s team, he sees them as Abbotsford’s team. When the Heat came to town, Stuart was ready to give them his full support: “I bought tickets right off the bat.” The trouble was that Stuart wanted a jersey and the similarity between the Heat jersey and the Calgary jersey was just too much for the die-hard Vancouver fan. Stuart explained, “I had trouble trying to buy a jersey to support them because I just plain hate Calgary and I love the Canucks.” So, his wife came up with the sacrilegious plan – attach a Canucks logo to a Heat jersey. It makes one dizzy just thinking about it.
In any case, Colin represents a small per cent of the population who have been able to overcome the obvious relation to the Albertan team. That fact was made abundantly clear as the Abbotsford Heat faced off against the Chicago Wolves, affiliate to the Vancouver Canucks, this past week. The Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Center (AESC) was buzzing with media and fans of the Canucks hoping to catch a glimpse of the talent of the future. For the Abbotsford Heat, on the other hand, it was the perfect chance to showcase to those who would normally never attend a Heat game just how entertaining the Heat games can be. The Heat have averaged 3314 in attendance this year, while the Wolves brought in well over 5000 on both nights. Unfortunately for the Heat organization, the plan to show an extra 2000 people just what the Heat are all about was undermined by two lackluster games.
On Tuesday night the Wolves came out strong, to the delight of many in the AESC, and led 3-0 going into the third period. The Heat, however, came roaring back to within one and were denied overtime as they pulled their goalie in the final minute of the game. On Wednesday night it was a similar story. The Wolves came out strong, out-skating, out-hitting and just out-playing the Heat. The result was a 5-0 victory for the Wolves, whose fans loved it.
Steve Reinprecht, who scored four goals over the two nights, commented: “It was nice to contribute and I had a lot of chances. I thought our line played well. We created a lot of chances. We wanted to come in here and get some confidence and get our game back in order.”
Indeed, the Heat have been giving a lot of other teams their confidence back. The problem has been a lack of personnel. As the Flames have faced their own struggles this season, the Heat have had to send up some key players; Leland Irving, TJ Brodie, Lance Bouma, Greg Nemisz were all absent for both games against the Wolves. The four have pretty much made up the heart and soul of the franchise, and they have clearly been missed over the past few weeks, as the Heat have struggled, winning only four of their last 12.
Following the second game, coach Troy Ward of the Abbotsford Heat concluded: “I’m not really too worried about where we’re at right now. Quite frankly, if we’re not going to play well at a particular time, we’re in about that time zone where I don’t want us to play well. And we’re also at a time when I want us to go through adversity, and we’re going through adversity, so I’m totally cool with it.”
As for Colin Stuart, he will likely continue to go to Heat games and cheer on his Abbotsford Heat through thick and thin, donning his pieced-together jersey. Whether or not those extra spectators in the stands last week will return remains to be seen.