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West Valley City Journal

Hockey at the Maverik Center is an adventure

Jun 10, 2019 01:56PM ● By Greg James

Grizzbee takes a bite of a fish thrown on the ice after the Grizzlies first playoff goal, a tradition dating as far back as anyone can remember. (Photo courtesy of Action Sports Photography)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

The season for the Utah Grizzlies has come to a close, but their fans know how to enjoy the game.

“It has been this way since I can remember,” longtime season ticket holder Ed Rappleye said. “We have got the feed the grizz.”

No sooner had the first playoff goal hit the back of the net than fish came cascading from all levels of the stands onto the ice. A timeout was called and the off-ice officials entered the arena to clean up the mess.

“They do things like this all of the time. One time it was a teddy bear toss, the last regular season game it was undy Sunday that the fans threw underwear, (there was also) sock night. The first weekend the fans throw fish on the ice. It is interesting to see the guts splatter sometimes,” Rappleye said. 

Home games at the Maverik Center are packed with more than game-time entertainment. The jersey auctions have become wildly popular as well as chuck-a-puck every second intermission. In March they host a scout-sleepover in the arena. The scout’s game ticket includes a scout patch, play time on the ice and a catered breakfast in the morning.

“Some of the stuff they do is fun. Chuck-a-puck supports a different organization every time. The money goes to support a charity like youth hockey…,” Rappleye said.

Fans buy foam hockey pucks and during the designated intermission they throw them on the ice. The numbered puck closest to center wins a prize.

“That is why I keep coming back. They treat me well and the games are fun. I missed a few games this season, but they allow me to cash in my tickets,” Rappleye said.

The Grizzlies season ended abruptly this year. They lost the first round playoff series to the Idaho Steelheads in five games. The Grizzlies won the first game of the series 7-1, but lost four straight overtime games to end their season.

They finished third in the mountain division of the East Coast Hockey League behind the Tulsa Oilers and Idaho Steelheads. A total of 42 players saw ice time for the Grizzlies. They are a farm team of the Colorado Avalanche. All three of the Avalanche organization teams qualified for the playoffs. 

In October, head coach Tim Branham became the winningest head coach in Grizzlies history. In his six seasons in Utah, he has amassed 215 wins. They have qualified for the playoffs five times.

The team's primary responsibility is not to win games. It is to develop players to advance to the next level. 

Forward Mitch Maxwell has spent parts of two seasons with the Grizzlies. He is from a small southern Alberta, Canada town named Magrath. His hockey experience has been slightly different than some of his teammates. He spent two years away from the game on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints.

Maxwell played 29 games this season and scored five goals and had six assists. He began playing hockey at four years old as his family encouraged him to play the game from a young age. His father, uncle and brothers all played professional hockey before him.

“I served a mission for the church in West Virginia,” Maxwell said. “The hometown fans always treat me well, but I think being a member of the church here is a little more common. The only other LDS players I played with were family and friends. I love it here in Utah. At this point in my career I am just trying to get better every day and move up.”

At one point he thought his career was done.

“When I was younger I got cut from a team. I tell people to keep going and keep working. Being a member of the church has taught me to keep working hard and going on a mission helped me with that. I have had good teammates and having discipline is something I have learned,” he said.

The Grizzlies will return to action in October. More information can be found on their website