Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wranglers fans turn out in pajamas for midnight hockey

By Anthony Fenech

Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.

The clock struck midnight, the puck dropped and for the seventh consecutive year the Las Vegas Wranglers proved their city never sleeps.

Fans filled the Orleans Arena late Tuesday, hundreds of them dressed in pajamas and sleepwear, as they watched the Wranglers battle the Idaho Steelheads in the 2009 Midnight Holiday Roundup. The Wranglers left the ice with a 3-1 win.

"It's a great idea," said Wranglers fan Tony Mascari. "They draw more and more every year, and it's really a unique atmosphere."

Joining Mascari at the game was his son, Mike, and while both are self-proclaimed hockey followers, work and school schedules sometimes conflict with number of Wranglers games they can attend.

"It's great for those of us that work swing shifts and aren't able to come to all of the games," Mascari said. "It's not too early and it's not too late for us."

Mascari has frequented the Midnight Roundups since they were introduced and said he enjoys the energy of the crowd more than anything.

"I remember the first time I brought my son to the midnight game," he said. "The people behind us said they couldn't believe I was bringing a kid there. The crowds are pretty rambunctious."

While the start time might seem geared toward a younger crowd, the veteran fans in the stands said they had no problem with the late start.

Judy Manafto and Robin Lett, two retired friends from Las Vegas, were convinced to attend by their husbands and said they're always up late anyway.

They laughed at the notion that their internal clocks might start winding down by the end of the game.

"We'll be kicking until three or four this morning," Manafto said. "It gives us something to do instead of watch television."

The pair said they come to a few Wranglers games each year but try not to miss the Midnight Roundup.

"I like to see everyone in their pajamas," Manafto said. "It's funny."

Lett just enjoys watching hockey, and because Las Vegas doesn't have a National Hockey League team, the Wranglers are the next best option.

"Here, we're a 24-hour town and this just proves it," she said. "But I'd come if it was at 3 a.m. if I could. I love hockey and I love the fights."

She didn't have to wait long. Wranglers forward Kyle Hagel and Idaho left-winger Adam Huxley squared off two seconds into the game.

"That was quite a fight," she said during the first intermission. "I don't know if anything can top that tonight."

The Midnight Roundup consistently is among the best-attended games each year for the Wranglers. A half hour before the game, fans formed a lengthy line outside of the ticket booth.

"There's always an enjoyable group of people here," concession worker Abe Wysotski said while gesturing toward an open bar area in the Orleans Arena concourse.

"Whatever it is, it brings people in here," he said. "This game is always one of the best."

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