Norfolk Admirals & The AHL

Admirals Puck Drop with Joe Gregory (back left) and myself (back right). (Photo: John Wright)

Admirals Puck Drop with Joe Gregory (back left) and myself (back right). (Photo: John Wright)

What’s It Take For The Admirals To Get Some Press?

Having been based in Houston the past five years and writing my sports column, The Blonde Side, I admit I’ve gotten a bit spoiled when it comes to sporting events.

Perhaps even a bit overzealous, like Heidi Montag and her unprecedented love for plastic surgery. In one city (albeit a large one), we have MLB, NFL, NBA, MLS, AHL, we are hosting next year’s NBA All-Star game, we just hosted the Olympic Marathon Time Trials and the list goes on and on. That’s a whole lotta sports, yes? It appears in the midst of my Houston zip code and all its national sports splendor, the Norfolk Admirals have fallen off my hometown radar, but it seems I wasn’t the only sports writer who forgot about the Admirals.

A few weeks ago when I was back visiting my hometown of Chesapeake, I noticed that the sport’s section of Friday’s overflowing Virginian-Pilot failed to make any mention of the Admirals and their home game set to take place later that evening. In a town where there is only one professional team currently in season, the question arises, if you’re not covering that team, what exactly is filling the pages of your illustrious sport’s section?

That was just enough prompting for me to make a call and head to Norfolk Scope to shadow Admirals Vice President and General Manager, Joe Gregory during their game against the Adirondack Phantoms (which they won) just weeks after their sellout crowd of 8,699.

Gregory. (Pic | Rob Twine)

I showed up at the Admirals Administrative Offices at 5pm with Starbucks in hand. Joe and his Director of Media Relations, Keith Phillips, had warned me it’d be a long night with a lot of walking. Their advice to wear comfortable shoes reminded me of one of those overplayed Haynes commercials, but thankfully, I obliged. I sat down for a brief background on Mr. Gregory, who is not only the VP of the Admirals, but as of last October, also the GM of the Norfolk Tides. Needless to say, the Youngstown native is busy. As one of the youngest GMs in history (if not the youngest), Gregory first became a GM at the ripe age of 26 for the Youngstown SteelHounds, but his first gig in sports was much earlier with the LPGA at 15.

But back to his current role with the Admirals, who hold a current record of 39-18-1-2 (W-L-OTL-SOL), good for 81 points and tied for the best record in the entire American Hockey League. They are currently in first place in the Eastern Conference and East Division, and are riding a well-deserved 12-game win streak dating back to February 10th, which marks the longest winning streak in AHL Admirals history and the longest winning streak in the AHL this season.

Those numbers all seem like reputable reasons to write about this pro team in the local paper, yes? Or what about the animated fans that fill out the Scope on a regular basis? Having logged over 6 miles walking around with Gregory (in my comfortable shoes) through every crevice of the concourse, the ice, the locker rooms and more, it was evident a big part of his job was dealing with the fans. The loyal and avid bullhorn kind of fans, no less.

In all fairness, initially I didn’t think it was that big of a deal for the local paper’s omission until fan after fan approached Gregory up in arms about it. These fans mean business. They are proud of their team and they want the recognition. Not only do the Admirals have their hands in a number of worthy community endeavors, the roster boasts some big-time names, which will soon be in the bright lights of the NHL, including the AHL’s top goaltender in wins (Dustin Tokarski, 27) and top rookie scorer (Cory Conacher, 66 points on 31 goals and 35 assists). Not to mention Conacher is tied for second overall in the AHL in goals while ranking fourth overall in points. Mark Barberio leads all AHL defensemen in scoring (51 points on nine goals and 42 assists). It’s by no means a far stretch to say the Admirals are one of the best teams and have some of the best players in the AHL this season. Again, newsworthy, yes?

As the buzzer signaled a 2-0 victory over the Phantoms, Gregory is once again on the move. “Now we go say goodnight to all the fans,” he says, clearly valuing the support the locals put into his team. If he supports his fans, and his fans support his team, and his team is doing phenomenal on the ice heading toward the end of the season, shouldn’t our major print publications be supporting all of the above parties? To me, the answer it a clear yes. And hopefully it’s a clear yes before the Admirals head to the playoffs because there’s nothing worse than bandwagon sports reporting.

For more on the Admirals or to check their upcoming schedule, click here.

This article was featured on AltDaily, Hampton Roads’ source for creative culture, intelligent commentary and pressing news (and thanks to The Blonde Side, even a little bit of sports!).