By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — When the Everett Silvertips win at Comcast Arena, savvy fans know to remain at their seats a few moments beyond game’s end.
Ben Betker and Austin Lotz are going to give them an extra little treat.
While the Tips file off the ice after saluting the fans at center ice, Betker and Lotz linger behind for one final celebratory moment. And their postgame victory celebration has become a big hit with fans.
“The crowd seems to love it and that’s what keeps us doing it,” Lotz said. “We hear them cheer after. We do it for them. They watched the whole game and when we win, we like to celebrate and show our appreciation for them.”
Lotz, Everett’s 18-year-old No. 1 goaltender, and Betker, a domineering 19-year-old stay-at-home defenseman, began doing their post-victory celebration midway through last season. When the Tips win at home and Lotz is in goal, they make sure they have the final say.
While the last of the Tips are stepping off the ice and into the tunnel to the locker room, Betker and Lotz slowly position themselves about 50 feet away from one another. Then they glide toward each other on one knee while dragging a hand along the ice. When they reach one another, they pop up, exchange three rapid-fire waist-high hand slaps, then leap into the air for a shoulder bump.
“Well, Ben doesn’t usually jump, though,” a laughing Lotz clarified, since the towering 6-foot-6 Betker has five inches on Lotz.
And fans always greet the celebration with an enthusiastic cheer.
The ritual is patterned on that performed by Carey Price and P.K. Subban of the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, who celebrate victory with an exaggerated triple low-five hand slap. Price and Subban’s antics served as the inspiration for Betker and Lotz when they were brainstorming their own victory celebration early last season.
“I think it was my idea,” Betker said. “We roomed on the road last year together and I remember saying to him we should do something, because he’s a huge Price fan and I’m a huge Subban fan. We did it one game and got a great reception from the fans, so we thought we’d keep doing it.”
Added Lotz: “We were in the dressing room trying do decide what to do, and we said, ‘Why don’t we do what Price and Subban do?’ That’s kind of what we settled with. I think what made us keep doing it was we went on a bit of a streak last year where we were winning, and it started when we were doing it, so we’ve been doing it ever since.”
The celebration is strictly for the home crowd as Betker and Lotz don’t perform it on the road.
“Never on the road,” Lotz said with a grin. “I don’t think the crowds would like it on the road.”
Betker’s and Lotz’s teammates are a little less enamored with the celebration than Everett’s fans. After repeated viewings, their reactions have gradually transformed from supportive to more of the eye-rolling variety.
“Either they’re jealous or they absolutely hate it,” Betker said with a laugh. “I’m not too sure which one it is. We always get it from the boys in the room, like they’ll say we’re getting fined five bucks. But we have fun doing it and we do it for the fans, because we think they like it and we always get a good response from them.”
Indeed, the fans only seem to cheer louder with each successive celebration, as more and more realize the need to hang around for an additional minute.
“I hear a lot of roar these days,” Lotz said. “Especially when there’s a big crowd, you can really hear it.”
The fans have had more opportunities to see the celebration this season. It’s not known exactly how many times it took place last season since Betker and Lotz didn’t start doing it until the season was underway. But it would have been fewer than 13 times, as Everett won just 13 home games all season. This season, the Tips have 17 home wins under their belts with three home games still to play, and Betker and Lotz have been celebrating from the start.
“We always hear it from the boys, but I think the fans like it, so we kept doing it and it’s a fun little thing we have together,” Betker said.
“It’s for the fans in the stands who watch the whole game and cheer us on, whether we win or lose,” Lotz added.
And both the Tips and their fans are hoping for several more encores from Betker and Lotz before the season ends.
Tonight’s game against Tri-City at Comcast Arena is being televised live on Root Sports beginning at 7:30 p.m. It’s the second straight Friday in which Everett is on television. … The Silvertips and Everett Youth Hockey are teaming for Hockey Weekend Across America by offering Try Hockey For Free Day on Saturday at the Comcast Community Rink. From 9:30-10:30 a.m. youths are invited try the sport out. Equipment will be provided and Everett players will be on hand to assist.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.