By Steven Manzo
Over the weekend of Jan. 28-30, Allentown hosted the American Hockey League’s (AHL) All-Star Classic; an event where the best of hockey’s rising starts come to show off their skills. The All-Star Classic was spread over three days and was filled with many different events including a fan fest, tailgates, a skills competition and finally, the All-Star game itself.
I was presented the opportunity to volunteer for the event and I jumped at it. Since I was young, I have been going to Sixers, Phillies, Eagles and Flyers games, and always wanted to know what it was like to go behind the scenes and work at a sporting event. I signed up to work that Sunday night, the night of the skills competition.
The volunteers were rounded up and brought to the team offices on one of the upper floors. It was fascinating to see an area of an arena that fans usually don’t think about, let alone see. The first order of business was to receive our volunteer shirts and our credential badges to get us around the building.
They ran down a few of the jobs that they were going to need some of us to do, like hand out programs and greet fans at the gates. After that, a few others and I were instructed to be on mascot duty.
What we were to do throughout the night was accompany the mascots as they moved around to various parts of the arena. There were 19 different mascots at the event from various teams throughout the AHL, so most of them were not familiar with the surroundings. We were there to make sure that they did not get lost, that no one was harassing them and that they got where they needed to go on time.
From then on, I was on a busy but very exciting ride. The Phantoms employee overseeing us took us down to the first level of the arena, which is where all of the player locker rooms and ice equipment were, along with the mascots’ locker room. It was a stop made often since the mascots could only be out and about for short bursts due to how hot and exhausting it gets under the suits.
The real action did not take off until the fans started to arrive at the building about an hour before game time. That is when the mascots were out for their first action. I was personally tasked with escorting the mascot Sonar for the Hartford Wolfpack.
I led him up to the main concourse where he would go on to high five and take pictures with almost everyone we passed. Most of the people walking by were very receptive to all of the different mascots, but some light-heartedly jeered the rival mascots.
After that it was game time and we corralled all of the mascots back down to the lower level so they could make their introductions on the ice.
The highlight of my night was walking them down through the player tunnels. Getting a peak at the player’s locker rooms and workout area is always a treat for any sports fan.
More notable than that, however, was when we passed by former Flyer Danny Brière, who was there as a guest coach, in the tunnel.
After that, the night went pretty routine. The mascots would come out for about twenty minutes at a time to pump up the crowd and take more pictures around the concourse until they needed to take a break.
I had the privilege of taking the Phantoms mascot MeLVin around to the club suites. The hardest part of escorting the mascots was keeping track of them since we’d have to watch over a few at a time. At times it felt like they were actively trying to ditch us, but the volunteers and I were up to the task.
Overall I had a blast volunteering, it got a little exhausting from time to time, but it was worth it to hang out with the mascots and get a rare glimpse of the Phantom’s stadium from behind the scenes. Along with the rest of the AHL players, it’s time for me to take my talents up to the big league.