The Charlotte Checkers are happy to be back after spending a month on the road to start the season and ecstatic to have a permanent home of their own waiting for them.
They returned to refurbished Bojangles’ Coliseum for practice Tuesday and will christen the new-look arena Saturday night in the team’s home opener.
“Amazing, it is so amazing,” Checkers goaltender Drew MacIntyre said. “They did a great job. It’s exciting for the city, for the organization and for the players.”
There will be some distinct advantages for the Checkers after the move to the new digs. The team typically practiced in Indian Trail when they played at Time Warner Cable Arena and shared a home with the Hornets.
Equipment had to be lugged back and forth. Dressing room conditions weren’t ideal. There are some finishing touches needed at Bojangles, but players were already raving about the new locker room after two practices.
MacIntyre said the goalies and defenseman are already picking up some intel on where there might be quirky bounces off the boards, which he said look springy. Another hope is the more intimate setting will help the home team as well.
“I think it’s going to be a lot louder, rowdier type of event,” Checkers owner Michael Kahn said. “The fans are basically on top of the players, and I think that will be a real home-ice advantage.”
Facilities in the American Hockey League vary wildly when it comes to attendance and the in-arena experience. AHL veterans like Zach Boycuk and MacIntyre have seen the best and worst the league can offer.
“There’s a lot of excitement, within the city and with our team. It feels pretty good to have an arena to call our own,” Boychuk said. “The renovations look really good. It looks awesome. I think the fans are going to be loud.”
The Checkers are also excited because they navigated 10 consecutive road games to begin the season with wins in six of them.
“It was great,” MacIntyre said. “We have things to work on. We weren’t great all the time, but there was a lot of good. I love this team. We don’t quit. If that level of effort is there, other things take care of themselves.”
There are lots of new amenities, from a massive scoreboard upgrade to new concessions and a unique way for the Checkers to reach the ice through the Red Line Club restaurant. They are hoping it’s also going to have some character that was lacking at TWCA.
“I love atmosphere, and the NBA rinks just don’t do it for me,” MacIntyre said. “This is my kind of rink. This has a modern feel to it, but it’s still going to have old-school atmosphere.