Wichita is hosting its first NHL game on Saturday when the Blues and the Arizona Coyotes play pre-season at 7 p.m. at the INTRUST Bank Arena.
And no one in the city of 390,000 in south-central Kansas is more excited than Joel LoMorno. He’s the general manager of the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder hockey team, which helps deliver Saturday’s game. More importantly, he’s from the Philadelphia area and played college hockey at La Salle University in the late ’80s and early ’90s – a time when young Craig Beerup was playing for the Flyers.
“Literally my idol,” Lomorneau said. “My hair, my nickname, my number is Craig Beerup. I was ‘the boss’. I wore number 17. The hair was as long as it was. It was my son.”
Berube’s shirt number with the Flyers was 17.
“Actually, I played a men’s league game (Monday) with my number 17 shirt,” Lomorneau said. “My wife actually framed a Berube shirt for me about five years ago, in my office. I’m a huge fan. I’ve got all his cards and (several) Berube shirts. I wish hockey was still playing like the boss. It was tough. Tough Because it comes.”
People also read…
One way or another, Lomorno plans to meet Berube before Saturday’s game.
“We’ll see when I get there if I can recognize him,” said Birubi, who was, uh, amused hearing about his Wichita fan. “That’s cool. It’s good to have fans, man. When I played I didn’t have many of them.”
But Lomurno won’t be the only blues fan at INTRUST on Saturday. There are decent blues in Wichita.
“I think they will find that there are a lot of blues fans here in town,” Lomorneau said.
A crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 people is expected at INTRUST, which has a capacity of 13,000 people. Wichita has been trying to get a pre-season game in the NHL for years without success.
“We wrote in our contract with Edmonton that we would discuss the possibility of having an NHL game here every season,” LoMorneau said.
It never worked out, mainly because Edmonton didn’t want to give up the gate from their home pre-season game, according to LeMourneau. For the past five years, the Thunder has been the Edmonton chapter of ECHL. This year, the San Jose Sharks of Thunder’s ECHL.
A big help getting this year’s game was obtained when a local Wichita promoter – G1 Sports & Entertainment – got involved. Also, the Arizona Coyotes, technically the home team, cannot play any pre-season games in the Phoenix area while construction is completed on their new stadium—well, the one they’ll share with the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Wichita was called “Frozen Faceoff”. There will be music and rubber toys for the kids to play outside the arena before the match. Chris Mann of Wichita, who reached the finals of the TV show “The Voice” in 2012, will sing the national anthem.
There will be promotions and giveaways during and between periods. And mascots of the Wichita Thunder, Wichita State Shockers, and Arizona Coyotes will roam the stands.
The idea is to make such a good show, that the NHL wants to go back to Wichita. And fans want to come back to watch the NHL.
“I think there’s excitement here,” Lomorna said. “It’s their first time ever for an NHL game in Wichita. I think the guys are going to love it because the arena is exceptional. It’s like the NHL, so I think they’re going to really love the setup when they get here.”
St. Louis Blue Notes
Birobi said the Blues had a look at a lot of young players in Saturday’s game. He didn’t name the names, but Jake Nebors, Anthony Boldock and Scott Peronovich are expected to be on the game group.
All three pre-season home games in the Enterprise Center will be streamed live on the Bally Sports app and BallySports.com: September 29 against Columbus, October 4 against Minnesota, and October 8 against Chicago. Each competition starts at 7 pm
PHOTOS: Day Two of St. Louis Blues Training Camp
Latest STL Blues hockey news, NHL titles, results, standings and rosters.