Syracuse’s hockey hot spot on high alert Wednesday night as thousands of Crunch fans flocked to the War Memorial Arena for Game 3 of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Crunch moved ahead 2-1 with a win over the Providence Bruins, but well before the puck drop, checking was already happening off the ice.
Heightened security was enforced at the War Memorial after a bombing caused terror and mayhem for music fans in Manchester a few days ago.
“It’s natural, when you have an incident whether it’s in Times Square or at a concert or a soccer game, it heightens awareness,” said Howard Dolgon, owner of the Syracuse Crunch. “It’s the right thing to do.”
The War Memorial and The Manchester Arena are run by the same management group, SMG.
Big bags and over-sized purses were off limits causing some fans to leave and come back before the game. Other bags and small purses were also checked as fans made their way to the gate.
Dolgon says it is possible security measures could change in the next few days, but that fans should expect the same bag restrictions to be in place for Game 4 and Game 5 set for Friday and Saturday night at the War Memorial.
Crunch super fan Gregory Reitz Jr. usually brings his big green backpack to collect souvenirs he buys at each home game.
However, this time, it’s not getting past the turnstiles, and Reitz says that’s just fine.
“It’s good for them step up security like that to check people’s bags and whatever to double, triple check and make sure everyone’s fine going in and out,” Reitz said.
Dolgon says the fan base is loyal and that his staff knew it wouldn’t be too much to ask fans to not bring over-sized bags or purses inside the War Memorial especially when it means keeping everyone safe and watching the Crunch take one more step toward wining the Calder Cup.
“We want to keep our fans safe. We want to keep our players safe,” Dolgon said. We want anyone who comes through this building to enjoy the game. We want them to feel they’re safe and secure and that’s really our number on priority.”
The tragedy in Manchester is touching some fans more than others.
“My daughter’s in Wales right now so it was very close to my heart coming to a big event like this and knowing that somebody could target something like this, so I’d rather be safe,” said Kathy Baxendell, a long-time Crunch fan.
Blaxendell says she didn’t mind having her bag checked and would welcome it in future games.
“I think it’s an appropriate thing in these types of venues,” Blaxendell said. “You can‘t be too safe.”
The arena always has security and Syracuse police officers in place, according to Crunch owner Howard Dolgon, but he worries as violence continues to plague major events.
“We live in a world we never dreamed we’d be living in where innocent people are attacked and killed or maimed,” Dolgon shared. “We have been very fortunate in our building not having any issues but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry, certainly.”
Long-time Crunch fans agree.
“They don’t want it to happen here. I don’t want it to happen here,” Reitz said. “I want to see them win a Calder Cup.”
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday night for Game 4 inside the War Memorial Arena.