GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – Mountains. Lakes. Professional hockey. This place is literally heaven.
Located roughly an hour north of Albany and a short drive from Lake George, the town of Glens Falls, New York, is home to the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder. Inside the arena, first time visitors will stumble upon an electric environment you cannot find elsewhere.
“Glens Falls is a small town, and everyone is engaged in what happens with the team,” says Alex Loh, the new Head Coach of the Thunder. “The history of hockey in Glens Falls goes back 30+ years with multiple NHL and AHL Hall of Famers passing through. Our fan base is knowledgeable and expects a quality team, which adds to the excitement.”
If you’re particularly fond of the “old time hockey” atmosphere, you need to come here. Glens Falls hosted AHL and UHL action for 33 years prior to the Thunder’s inaugural ECHL season in 2015-16. And those same fans have been supporting the “Keep Hockey Here” campaign, a mass fundraising movement that enabled a local ownership group to purchase the team.
“We have one final payment due to complete the sale, but we have the necessary funds now for this last payment,” says Jeff Mead, General Manager of the Thunder. “Our community and board has been amazing in their commitment to this team, arena, and community.”
#KeepHockeyHere has also helped the Thunder drastically improve ticket sales over the last two seasons, with a more than 30% increase in attendance from 2016-17 to 2017-18. “We are currently ahead of last year in tickets, groups, and corporate partnerships and are focused on 10% growth this season,” adds Mead.
Loh has “absolutely” noticed the increase in community support since he joined the team as an Assistant Coach in its inaugural 2015-16 season. “There was a bit of wariness over the first two seasons as the fans adjusted from the AHL to the ECHL, which was perceived as an inferior product,” says Loh. “As the community has seen success on the ice and the character of the players, they have wholeheartedly embraced the team, and the support is amazing.”
Cool Insuring Arena itself is unique, featuring a wraparound concourse that allows fans to not miss a second of the action. You’ll also find love seats in the stands (literally what it sounds like, just in the form of an arena seat). Scattered across the arena, they are available on a first come, first serve basis and cost the same as two regularly priced tickets for that section.
If you see empty seats in the seating bowl, that’s because the unique setup of the concourse allows many fans to enjoy the game from the standing room areas atop each section. A majority of them won’t sit down for the entire game, adding to the small town atmosphere and old time hockey vibe. These fans are actually engaged in the game (not consumed by their phones), and it’s a sight for sore eyes.
And I’ll never forget the first time I saw the “Thunder Clap” in action. At first I had no idea what was happening, but before I knew it, everyone in attendance was clapping in sync, and I couldn’t help but join in myself. Now, every time the third period is approaching, I anticipate the Thunder Clap from my seat in the press box, along with everyone else in the arena.
“We had seen a video of it being done and wanted to emulate it as something to get our fans going during the game. Before we had a chance to film anything, one of our players, Alex Fedoseyev, took it upon himself to lead the fans in a similar clap after a game,” recalls Mead. “We were still recording the game, so we got some great footage of Alex and our fans. As soon as we had our version of the Thunder Clap, it went into the game script during the middle of the 2016-17 season.
“It’s pretty cool that the fans know about it, and you can see them scurry back to their seats before the third period to be a part of it on a nightly basis,” Mead continues. “It brings a lot of noise to start the final period, and I think our players can feed off of that energy as well.”
Even on weeknights when the crowds are a little lighter, Glens Falls still ranks as one of the loudest hockey towns I’ve ever been to. It’s easy for a crowd of around 3,000 to seemingly sound like you’re at a sold out Madison Square Garden.
“The building is a wonderful place to play,” says Loh. “The noise is unique and lifts the energy of the team. There’s nothing like a sell out at the CIA.”
That noise erupted last season during the 2018 Kelly Cup Playoffs, when the Thunder won their first North Division Championship in franchise history. That resulted in their first ever appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were eliminated by the Florida Everblades. Loh made it clear that regardless of the team’s prior achievements, his expectations are even higher now.
“The expectation is to meet and exceed the results from last year,” says Loh. “Some things have to go our way, and the first step is qualifying for the playoffs. We can build a Kelly Cup run from there.”
Loh began coaching at the professional level as Video Coach of the former AHL Portland Pirates from 2012-15. He then joined the Thunder as Assistant Coach from 2015-17 and spent last season as Associate Coach, finding out about his promotion to Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations at a meeting with team ownership in July.
“It was very surprising and obviously exciting,” says Loh. “It’s a great honor to be able to be the head coach of an ECHL team, especially the Thunder.”
“Coach Loh has worked hard this summer, and I think we are in a good place with our current roster,” adds Mead.
Loh already knows how the first meeting with his team will go this preseason.
“I may be fairly young, but I have been coaching for 10 seasons,” says Loh. “I will tell them what the expectations are of being a member of this team, both on and off the ice. They are lofty, and they will be met.”
As the fifth season in Adirondack Thunder history approaches, Loh wants to let the team’s fans know how vital they are to this hockey town’s success. “Thank you for the support over the previous three seasons, and thank you for moving into this season,” says Loh. “Expect more of the same success. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first three seasons, and we will have a great fourth fifth, sixth, and beyond.”
By now, you can tell that the energy of this hockey community is contagious. And the same goes for the surrounding Adirondack Mountains region, which provides outdoor lovers of all seasons with activities to do year round. So far I’ve taken a steamboat ride on the Minne Ha Ha II, indulged at local shops and restaurants, hiked to the top of Prospect Mountain, and saw Imagine Dragons perform in nearby Saratoga Springs.
“Buy your tickets now!” reminds Mead. “We have a great ticket offer for Opening Night: four tickets to the game, a $20 gift card to Stewarts, four Thunder water bottles, and four games of bowling. We are working to make October 20 a great evening in Glens Falls.”
I’ll also take a Thunder water bottle, please. 🙂