By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
Everyone in the Washington Stealth’s local fan base wants to see the team beat the Rochester Knighthawks on Saturday night for the National Lacrosse League championship.
But not everyone understands and accepts where that game will be played.
With opinions ranging from grudging acceptance to outright anger, Stealth fans reacted this week to news that the title game will be played not on the team’s usual home turf at Everett’s Comcast Arena, but at the Langley Events Centre in Langley, B.C. The game was relocated because of a schedule conflict at Comcast Arena.
Even among fans who understand the reason for the switch, there is unhappiness about the timing of the announcement — one week’s notice, which precluded many people from getting the proper documentation (passports or enhanced drivers licenses) needed for the border crossing to and from Canada.
The breadth of comments — everything from grumblings to outrage — have filled the “Comments” section of the team’s Facebook page.
But many fans are also shrugging off the disappointment and will travel to Canada to cheer on the team. Among them, Darci Becker of Marysville, who has not missed a home game in the team’s four Everett seasons.
“But I know there are a lot of people that cannot go,” she said, adding, “There are some disgruntled fans that are very, very upset.”
There were issues even in Becker’s family. Her teen-age daughter is a big Stealth fan, but she had neither an enhanced drivers license nor a passport.
“It became this panic,” Becker said. “My daughter was very upset. She had tears in her eyes.”
The dilemma was solved when the family purchased an emergency passport. It required an additional fee, “but we had to get it done,” Becker said.
Steve and Apryl Ackley, a husband and wife from Snohomish, bought individual game tickets in the team’s first Everett season and have held season tickets the past three seasons. “We’ve never missed a game,” Steve Ackley said, “and we don’t plan on missing this one. We’ve waited all year for this, and this is the one you wait for.”
That said, “I think what’s really the most disappointing is that we only had a week’s notice (of the relocation),” Steve Ackley went on. “That rubbed some people the wrong way.
“I’m a little disappointed, and that was my first reaction just because Comcast Arena is so close,” he added. “But I’ve been to Langley before. I saw the Stealth play in a preseason game there two years ago, so it’s reasonable. And it’s sure better than the alternative, which is playing the game in Rochester.”
For some fans, the game’s relocation is barely an inconvenience. Vicki Smith and her husband, Larry, live near Lake Goodwin north of Marysville and they travel to Canada often. “For us, it’s not a problem,” she said. “We’re going to be there.
“It would’ve been great if it was in Everett, but these things happen. We’re just happy that it’s here (in the Pacific Northwest) and not somewhere in New York.”
But those comments were in contrast to many on the team’s Facebook page. One person wrote: “Sad that some can’t attend our own team’s final because of passport issues …”
Another fan wrote: “When I found out the game was in (Langley), I felt like I’d been punched … it does suck.”
One man was very critical of Stealth officials and wrote “… this is why the team will continue to lose fans.”
Some had even stronger criticism. One writer described the situation as “an absolute joke. I will NOT be renewing my (four) season tickets. … Taking the championship match to (Langley) is a slap in the face to all season ticket holders and to lacrosse fans in general.”
But the comments of most fans seemed to be somewhere in the middle. One wrote: “I support the team and am proud of their accomplishments this year, but this is a very bitter pill to swallow. I don’t care that the game is in Canada. I only think that as a season ticket holder I deserved some loyalty by receiving a heads up that this was the potential outcome.
“Just tired of having my intelligence insulted by the excuses,” she added. “This feels like a slap in the face.”