Sure, coach John Anderson thought the Chicago Wolves' 5-2 victory over Hamilton was the best part of the School-Day matinee game Wednesday at Allstate Arena. But right up there for him among the highlights was hearing all the children singing along with Wayne Messmer during the national anthem.
"I thought it was just awesome. It got the crowd going and it was really a neat experience," Anderson said.
There was one drawback, however.
"The hard thing was they were so loud in between whistles that I couldn’t talk to the guys on the bench," he said. "Maybe that’s a good thing. I should just shut up on the bench from now on."
Players had to be at Allstate Arena by 8:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. start to accommodate the school groups. On a normal game day, the Wolves arrive at the arena at 9:30 for the morning skate, so it wasn't much of a difference when it came to setting their alarms.
For right wing Mark Mancari, it was no change at all from his daily routine.
"I’m up at 7 anyways. I have a little guy," Mancari said, referring to his son, Grayson. "It’s nice, you get up and you don’t have to wait the day. You can get right after it. I enjoy it."
The crowd was buzzing even before the puck dropped to begin the game, thanks in no small part to the "Make some noise" sign displayed on the huge scoreboard video screen at the arena. The buzz turned into a deafening screech after that, a level it reached again later in the first period following two goals by Ty Rattie.
A three-goal second period not only broke the game open for the Wolves, it kept the kids engaged and loud throughout the opening two periods.
"When you play however many games we play in a year, it’s cool to do different things like this," Rattie said. "With the kids screaming, and how loud that first period got, it was pretty cool. It was a fun game to be part of."
It was the first School-Day game for Rattie, a rookie. But center Pat Cannone played in similar afternoon games as a member of the Binghamton Senators for the past two seasons. So he knew how to prepare.
"You just gotta get your mind a little sharper a little earlier," said Cannone, who had a goal and an assist. "Eat a light breakfast. So it’s a lot different, but it’s nice to get the game over with by 2 o’clock and you’ve got the rest of the day."
Thanks to the victory, the Wolves could enjoy themselves while having the rest of the day off.