Like a kid at Christmas who gets the toy they want, Langley hockey fans received the gift of Western Hockey League action. Unfortunately for the fans, their shiny new toy didn’t quite work as well as they hoped it would.
The Giants made their much anticipated Langley Events Centre regular season debut on Friday night, falling 7-3 to the visiting Everett Silvertips.
The teams also played the next night at Everett’s XFINITY Arena, with the home side taking it by a 3-1 score.
Dawson Holt scored twice in the opener while Jack Flaman had a goal in both games for the Giants.
Results aside, the game was a success with 4,875 fans taking in the action.
“It is a smaller, more intimate atmosphere than we are accustomed to in Vancouver,” said WHL commissioner Ron Robison, who was in attendance for the game.
“It is a great feel to the building. It has got all the things we want (and) I think it is a great experience for the players to play in a building this full every night.”
The commissioner also commended the Township for stepping up and making the necessary improvements to the LEC. This included new rink boards and LED lighting.
“The experience for the fans and the players and from a broadcast standpoint is exactly what we are looking for,” Robison said.
Friday’s game began with a tribute to the late Gordie Howe, whose family is part owner of the Giants.
The team played a tribute video to the hockey legend and wore special jerseys honouring the man known as ‘Mr. Hockey.’
The Giants also raised Howe’s number nine to the rafters.
And when the game started, the Silvertips raced out to a 4-0 lead, leading 5-1 after 20 minutes. By comparison, Vancouver had just five shots on goal in that period.
The game also featured a pair of Langley products, one on each side.
“I saw a lot of friends and family, even on the Jumbotron. It gives you a little extra energy when you look up and see your jersey or your parents and cousins and stuff like that,” said Everett winger Spencer Gerth.
Gerth estimated he had close to 50 family and friends in attendance.
“It was kind of a surreal experience; (playing in your hometown) is not something a lot of guys get to do,” he said.
“And this is where I played my midget hockey (with the Valley West Hawks); I was sitting in my stall that I sat in (during) midget, so that was pretty cool.”
For the Giants’ James Malm, there were 20 or 30 family and friends in the crowd at the LEC.
“I must not be as popular as (Gerth),” he cracked.
And while Malm said it was a neat experience to play in front of his friends and family, the result was disappointing.
“I wish we could have done better for all the fans out there,” he said.
The Giants are back in action on Sept. 27 when they host the Prince George Cougars.
Vancouver also hosts the Seattle Thunderbirds on Friday night (7:30 p.m.) and the Kamloops Blazers on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m.).
Seattle’s roster has Langley’s Jarrett Tyszka while the Blazers roster features Langley’s Brodi Stuart and Luke Zazula.