Hot Hot Heat

The Stockton Heat delivered a pulsating win for the ages – granted, it even kind of felt like first round vs. Las Vegas, 2013 – Sunday night in a 5-3 victory over San Jose in Game 4 of their first round series which included a blitz of three unanswered goals in the third period (sound familiar?).

Tuesday night will be the “do or die” game 5 at SAP Center, with the winner advancing to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs against the winner of the Ontario Reign / San Diego Gulls tilt. That’s the beauty of playoff hockey: the thrill of the “clean slate” in elimination games brings on all the feels/goosebumps/anxiety we embrace.

Everett Silvertips stick tap: alumnus and defenseman Mirco Mueller, with a pair of assists and a +1 rating in four games from the blue line for the Cuda. Trainer Marc Paquet is currently in his second season managing the bumps and bruises of the Heat, and in his third season as a part of the Calgary Flames organization. Considering he’s the king of all care-taking in a space no more than a center ice dump-in length from my old office space, that’s a cool six degrees of separation.

I’ve got a lot of ties back to the Northern California area. As my career began in Stockton with the genesis of professional hockey in the Thunder, my eight years there (2005-13) tied to the meeting of my wife, Amy in nearby Modesto. A cornucopia of family and friends still reside in Stockton, and in surrounding areas. So, it’s hard to ignore a series that’s brewing to be a classic.

While the players change, perhaps the mystique remains? The Thunder went 7-3 all-time in games where they forced elimination, and 2-1 on the Game 7 stage (the first round is a best-of-five, so we treat it like a “Game 7”).

Their last game 7? The year of 2013 A.D. … Stockton 5 – Las Vegas 3. First round. That was one game after the Thunder forced Game 7 with five electrifying third period goals to complete a game 6 comeback at home.

We remember how far they got in that playoff run.

Stick taps for you and cheers to more history in the making, 209.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game.  Tweet at him here.

Best third/specialty jerseys, ranked

My eight years spent with the Stockton Thunder called for more than just jumping on a headset at 7:35 p.m. Cultivating relationships in the media, contributing to a website, even helping sell product (see: corporate advertising, tickets) provided a full time paycheck.

I’m forever grateful: it eliminated hectic “summer job prospecting” that some individuals are subject to once the curtain drops on the season, and provided opportunities to learn the nuances of a well-rounded skill set (it pays to help “preach the team gospel” through the wonderful world of digital media and advertising sales).

But I digress! Part of the gospel-selling included illustrating really cool jerseys that were worn on an occasional, or even sometimes rare basis. The ECHL wasn’t a factory of publicity that was  built on the tenets of superstar player advancement. You had to illustrate “the show,” not just “the cast of characters.”

One-of-a-kind jerseys often get this kind of treatment. They’re a moving tapestry. They’re a part of our team wardrobe. They engage dialogue. When I was with the Thunder, many of them were cool (shout-out to Bryan Boyes – a mastermind behind them).

My favorites that stand out, all-time:

  1. THIRD JERSEY (2009-15)etumm67mhd4r5iepbfw8upjwwMany of us on the inside were aching for a third jersey for a while. But the “powers that be” wanted to conservatively promote the primary home/away jerseys to avoid confusing new fans from what was primary, and what was “third.”thunder 3rd

    This is still my favorite. I loved the tie-down touch. I loved the high-impact gold colored base. I loved the edgy, abrasive numbering style on the back. It was unique. It popped.

    Many of the players and head coach Matt Thomas couldn’t get enough of them.

    It was flexible for home or road games (the reason the Thunder actively chose to wear it for their entire playoff runs in 2012 and 2013 for both home and road – exception – first 3 games of the Kelly Cup Final in white or black jerseys because the league told them they had to wear those instead). They began as a “fifth anniversary season” addition, and became a permanent staple.




For all the breast cancer survivor tribute games (take it from me: the front office promotional wheel did a tremendous job bringing these games to life), these were the best looking threads. Loved the black base and the appropriate pink accent. Up until 2013-14 (my first season spent elsewhere), the Thunder only wore black helmets. These were a perfect match.


Clean. Crisp. Appropriate. And (selfish broadcaster preference alert) with back numbers that were easy to decipher from way upstairs!


fho23ek7pqyz8a2pebc1ncwxbThese weren’t even close to what the Seals of the 70’s wore, but the front office had a little bit of fun mixing in some throwback aesthetics. When Edmonton Oilers broadcaster Jack Michaels (back then with the Alaska Aces) and I glared at the ice and noticed the Thunder black/golds matched with the Aces “glacier blues,” we joked it looked like a Pittsburgh Penguins throwback game. But I loved the threads. Many Thunder fans who adored the design marveled at a simple nod to “old time hockey”: block lettering. “STOCKTON” in descending order. Tie-down laces. They were a classic. I wish I own one.

5. ST. PATRICK’S DAY (2011-12) 

When you have a little fun with a pleasurable March holiday, you can’t go wrong with a shade of green. The design was unique and original, but didn’t “try to do too much.” Differentiating Kevin Baker’s bright, popping “71” from a black base was easy.

Keep in mind: this list is based on pure aesthetics, absent from any kind of humanitarian message delivered with the associated promotion. It wouldn’t be fair to bring breast cancer, military appreciation, etc. into this kind of discussion. The jerseys here are just for us to enjoy.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton will be entering his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips. He was the original voice of the Stockton Thunder (ECHL) – where he had his first hockey job, met his wife and got married, so his eight years there were pretty special.  Tweet at him here