5,527 fans in the arena, not a single one in their seats.
The score would remain unchanged through the final buzzer, handing the Spirit their most disappointing loss in their most historic season.
But looking at fans faces during this season's home opener and while talking to Craig Goslin, the Spirit’s President and Managing Partner, the disappointment os that loss has given way to excitement for what’s in store for Saginaw's hockey team.
“We went all the way into the conference finals, lost it in the last game, the conference finals, in the last period almost on the last shift,” Goslin says. “That's how close this team came to winning a championship last year. We've got 15 of those kids back so the expectations this year are higher than they were last year.”
When Goslin says “kids” he’s not too far off - the Spirit’s roster consists of 16 to 20-year-olds. The Ontario Hockey League, or OHL, is what’s called a “development league” where athletes gain competitive league experience in hopes to be scouted and drafted into the National Hockey League.
“About 58% to 60% of the players in the NHL come out of our league,” says Goslin.
Athletes come from all over the world and live with local billet families who give them a home away from home during the season.
“Families take them in - it’s a labor of love and the athletes become part of the fabric of the family,” he says. “The billet families will stay in touch with them for the rest of their lives. It’s an amazing thing.”
“The city owned it, and at the time the city was in a real bad spot financially, couldn't really afford to keep the facility open. There was no main tenant,” he says.
That’s when Wren Blair and Paul Wendler approached Dick Garber with an idea.
“They said, ‘We’ve got an idea to get this facility renovated. Would you be on board?’ and Dick said, ‘You get it done, and I’ll buy the team and bring it here.’”
The facility was then deeded over to Saginaw County where a millage was passed to renovate the facility and manage the shortfall operation of the facility.
“If the Saginaw County taxpayers had said no to that millage, there would be no Saginaw Spirit, no Riverfront Saginaw, and likely no renovation to the Temple Theater,” he says.
Goslin sees the Spirit as one of the many signs of growth in the Downtown and Old Town areas of Saginaw.
“Economists will tell us that the growth and the development of downtowns and geographic areas is the catalyst for developing the entire region,” he says. “ We're making great progress with Delta College coming to downtown, along with the SVRC Marketplace, the Bancroft and Eddy buildings, The Temple Theatre, and the Dow Event Center.
Old Town is special. Great restaurants, there are all kinds of different taverns down there to go and have a drink with your friends and family. All the businesses there support each other and we're seeing new businesses popping up all the time.
I would say to you that five years from now you won't recognize the area because of all the great things that happening in Riverfront Saginaw.”