FRASER, Mich. – On the ice, Pearce Vance scored two goals as the Metro Jets roared to an 8-2 win over the Wooster Oilers last Saturday night at Fraser Hockeyland as part of “Heroes Night.”
In the grand scheme of things, the game on this night was actually the second priority of the evening.
Before the game, members of the military and first responders were honored and recognized by the season-high 751 fans in attendance.
The night featured the Fraser DPS, the Jets’ own and former captain Josh Beleski (Navy), Jets hockey mom Misty Martin (Army), Rob McLean (Air Force and a Michigan State Trooper) and Josh Dewitt (Marines), plus a World War II veterans group.
There were two ceremonial puck drops, one for the city of Fraser with incoming Mayor Joe Nichols and one for the military representatives.
“It was a big win on the ice and a bigger win off the ice,” said Jets coach-GM Justin Quenneville. “We had a big crowd with a lot of festivities and it looked like everyone enjoyed themselves.”
The Richards Middle School choir and drumline, under the direction of Mike Perkins, performed the national anthem and more tunes over the course of the evening.
“What a fantastic time,” said Perkins. “I heard nothing but amazing feedback from my students and their families. The energy was high and Chuck-A-Puck was very popular with the kids. They want to use the idea in school events. The greatest thing I can say about this whole experience, and hopefully more to come, is having a relationship between athletics and performing arts, specifically music. Many times in schools, that isn't there. Being a hockey player that I am, and a music teacher, I loved seeing this happen – bringing the community together as one.
“Fraser is a special place where that can happen.”
Fans at the game were also privileged to see the Star Warrior piece that honors all military with a star cut from a decommissioned American flag.
The night was sponsored by Koz Heating and Cooling and Adams Complete Cleaning and coordinated by Nancy Krajewski, the Jets’ game-day coordinator and director of community outreach.
“When it was decided that each member of our team staff would take one specialty game and bring it to life, I jumped at the chance for Heroes Night,” Krajewski said. “I set the bar pretty high to begin with, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I am so proud of the result of everyone’s hard work. The marketing director, the concourse crew, the game-day crew, the on-ice crew, the volunteers – without these dedicated people, this doesn’t work. It was an honor to be a part of such a successful event. We can’t thank Richards Middle School choir and drumline enough, as well as all of the vendors that participated.”
Krajewski said she came into the Jets organization with the attitude of selling the program as a brand-new era in hockey, a “this is not your father’s hockey organization” hype.
“After working all summer on the physical upgrades of the rink, here we are, only five months into our inaugural season with a virtually flawless fan experience,” she said. “That’s huge.”
And once she reflected on last Saturday, Krajewski is already looking forward to next year’s event.
“Once people realized what this game was about, they came out in droves to offer their groups for recognition and their services to support the game,” explained Krajewski. “From all of the groups that I spoke with, the Korean War vets, the VFW groups, the Vietnam vets, all of their stories, their tears, the first responders, Fraser DPS … I was definitely humbled to say the least. When we lifted that gate on the ticket booth and saw the entire lobby packed with waiting fans, I knew we had met my vision for this game. We’re already planning for next year’s Heroes Night to be even bigger and better.”
First-year Jets owner Pete Cammick was also in attendance at the game and was overwhelmed at the support and positive vibes throughout the evening.
“I know I have already said it was an amazing job by everyone, but it just can't be said enough,” said Cammick. “This game really announced a new day for the Metro Jets franchise and our relationship with the community. If there were any non-believers, they are gone now.”