SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A little energy, a lot of animosity. Add ice and stir. That has been the recipe for success for the Savannah Hockey Classic.
It’s hardly shocking that one of Savannah’s most popular weekends is served on ice, but the fact that the event on this ice has become such a local tradition is still a little surprising - even two decades in.
“It’s the best. I’m involved with regional tournament, I’m involved with national tournaments, but nothing compares with the Savannah experience. You’re not going to have 5,500 screaming fans at any other tournament throughout the year, so this is number one,” said Ken “Sarge” Day, American Collegiate Hockey Association, Commissioner.
The Savannah Hockey Classic turns 20 this weekend, and it will once again pack the Savannah Civic Center with fans coming to watch a game few in the audience have ever played.
“We have a lot of freshmen this year, so they don’t really know what to expect, except we told them to expect a big atmosphere,” said Caleb Rudnicki, Georgia Tech Hockey Team, President.
“The fan base is awesome down here,” said longtime Hockey Classic announcer, Norm Spafard. “I’ve always said this since I started coming down. This is the biggest event of their careers. When you put 3-5,000 people in here and they’re all making a ruckus? Oh yeah, this is the NHL for them.”
It’s here for the one weekend every year when Savannah becomes a hockey town. Of course, hockey is consequential to the college rivalries, which are the real attraction.
“I think if you put Georgia and Georgia Tech, and they were playing marbles, 5,000 people would show up."
The unexpected lifespan of the Hockey Classic is part of the story this year - the Savannah Sports Council planning events to celebrate 20 years - and tournament alumni who played as far back as the first Classic in 1999 returning for the anniversary.
“From the very first team ever here, so that’ll be great,” said Georgia Tech hockey alumnus, Zach Cernich. “There’s going to be a big alumni honor event tonight. We’re all going to be on the ice, so that will be special for all of us; something to remember.”
That’s the way this one weekend has been for 20 years in Savannah.
“It’s just an awesome event. It gets the kids away from school in a new environment. They’re treated really, really well. I think Savannah and the community has done an awesome job of welcoming them in and supporting them over the years. If you haven’t been here and you think it can’t be that exciting, believe me, it can and it is that exciting. You need to get out here tonight.”