HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — When you’re the champs, you can party as long as you want.
That’s exactly what the Hershey Bears have been doing since Mike Vecchione’s game winner hit the back of the net. After greeting fans off the airplane and at the Giant Center upon returning home on Thursday, Hershey hosted the real party back at the giant center Saturday afternoon, with a few thousand fans in attendance.
The players were introduced, the Calder Cup shown off, and every big moment of their instant classic playoff run relived on the big board. We even finally got a chance to hear head coach Todd Nelson roar — which is a must see above.
“Closest thing you’re going to get to an NHL atmosphere in my opinion in the league,” captain Dylan McIlrath said. “It makes coming out to the rink every day, playing in front of the fans so special, so yeah it’s a special place to be.”
“I was really looking forward to today to celebrate in front of fans,” Vecchione said. “Like I just said, we don’t come back without the support we had in games three four and five here.”
“It was a hell of an atmosphere,” Vecchione said. “We hate to make it easy on ourselves, we love overtime games, we love one goal games, we’re just comfortable in those situations. I’m just living it up, enjoying the moment, trying not to sleep because it feels like a dream.”
Only fitting that the players praised the dedicated Hershey fans, then gave them the chance to come meet the team. After the ceremony was over, fans were invited down onto the Giant Center floor for an autograph session with the players and staff.
The autograph line wrapped around the entire arena. For some fans who weren’t sure if they’d get a chance to see the Calder Cup, they brought their own.
“We didn’t think we’d touch the real one so we made our fake one,” Hershey resident Mark Bosler said. “It’s phenomenal. We’ve just had a blast. The run’s been great and being able to enjoy it with our grandson here has been top notch.”
With that, the Bears’ season has come to a close, but you can practically blink and Bears hockey will be back. They’ll take the ice again in less than three months.