For 20 years, the City of Utica has been without a professional hockey team. Back in 1993, the Utica Devils moved on due to a lack of attendance. But now, all of that has changed and a new AHL team is coming to Utica. YNN's Cara Thomas tells us how Mohawk Valley residents are welcoming the Utica Comets with open arms.
UTICA, N.Y. -- Ice hockey is a game like no other.
"Being in the stands with the crowd and when a team scores, everybody goes nuts and it's just great to be in that environment," said Utica hockey fan, Dave Abel.
Gary Colarusso, a Kirkland resident, added, "I love to watch a good defensive goalie. I love to watch the goalies work and that's kind of what intrigues me with hockey."
And it's a sport that runs deep in the Mohawk Valley, with youth programs in many of the towns and a popular local college team.
Abel said, "The AUD's got great attendance for Utica College hockey and sell out games almost every game."
For the last 20 years, something was missing: a professional team; but, not anymore. Starting this fall, hockey fanatics in the Mohawk Valley won't have to travel far to see some high quality players duke it out on the ice. The AHL is back with the Utica Comets.
Colarusso said, "You're going to see quality doorstep NHL players playing here and it's an opportunity to see those guys that are on their way up. Martin Broudeur played here for a number of years and look where he is today."
On Saturday, hundreds of people from across the Mohawk Valley lined up at the AUD to show their support by buying inaugural season tickets. And by early afternoon more than 400 seats were claimed.
"As I looked inside the AUD, there are sections cordoned off for corporate buyers that have blocked off seats. That's very encouraging. So, I hope this place is filled to the brim on opening night," said Colarusso.
But could history repeat itself? Will people lose interest the way they did with the Utica Devils? Season ticket holders said they don't think so. They predict this team will call the City of Utica home for many years to come.
He continued, "I think this is a great opportunity not only for the City of Utica, but for all of the Mohawk Valley to get involved in something that they can all support."
Abel said, "I'm hopeful for a great fall and a great season."
Hockey fans said having a professional team in their area is going to be a major tourist attraction. With five other AHL teams in New York State, ticket holders said they're expecting a great rival crowd at each game.
To get your own season tickets go to uticacomets.com.