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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Die-hard hockey fan silenced by TCC

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After more than 10 seasons, the Tucson Convention Center has banned an Arizona hockey tradition.

Anyone who has ever been to an Icecats game — or now a Wildcat hockey game — in the past 10 years has no doubt seen James “Hemsky” Reese run up and down the stairs of the TCC while Survivor serenades the crowd with “Eye of the Tiger” over the loudspeaker.

“Anybody who has been to a hockey game knows exactly who (Reese) is,” said Wendy Dickson, a friend of Reese and a fan of the hockey program for 28 years. “If you don’t know him by (his real name), you know him as the bald guy with the Amish-looking beard who runs (around) the rink.”

Reese, in his trademark Edmonton Oilers Ales Hemsky jersey, has run through the TCC between the second and third period of games more than 150 times, but he received an email from a TCC official the Thursday before the San Diego State game on Jan. 6, telling him he could no longer do the run. Reese said he received the email but did not read it beforehand, so he went to the game and did his run like usual.

At the time, Reese didn’t know it would be his last trip up and down the concrete stairs. He was not allowed to enter the arena the following Saturday. The ban was eventually lifted, but his mini-marathon was over.

TCC Director Tommy Obermaier explained to Reese that these rules had been in place for a long time but were not enforced, Reese said.

“The decision was purely (for) risk-management and liability reasons,” said Mary O’Mahoney, assistant director for the Department of Campus Recreation. O’Mahoney, along with Obermaier, met with Reese last Friday, deciding to allow him to return to TCC for games.

Reese offered to sign a waiver during the meeting to eliminate any liability for the TCC, but O’Mahoney said the real risk of the run involves the bystanders along the route. While the TCC made the decision to end the run, O’Mahoney said her department fully supports and agrees with their decision.

Despite attempts to compromise, Reese decided he will not attend any more games this season and was reimbursed for his season tickets.

“I believe that I’m a marked man, I’m a target,” Reese said. “And I think they decided that it’s my time to go.”

But while Rocky has been knocked to the mat, the title fight is not over for some fans at the TCC.

Last weekend against Michigan State, fans held up signs saying “Let Hemsky Run!” and wore orange shirts sporting the same motto.

A “Hemsky walk” was staged around the arena that grew in size as the procession continued. The fans tried to cap it off by doing Reese’s famous “UofA” chants from the upper deck, but Dickson said the music was turned up and eventually they returned to their seats.

The TCC and the UA respect what the fans are doing, O’Mahoney said, but it will not sway a decision that was based entirely on safety.

Dickson, however, is coming up with other ways to lash out at the TCC.

“I usually go about seven or eight beers deep (at the games),” Dickson said. “I didn’t have one the last game that I went to. That’s their revenue, that doesn’t have anything to do with the team.”

Dickson and Reese want fans to support the team and continue going to the games, as both are longtime fans and still love the program. They encouraged fans that support their cause to stop buying concessions.

“I love the program, but I would not support the TCC for anything,” Reese said.

Fans have also created Facebook pages, such as “Let Hemsky Run,” which Dickson said was deleted last week. She has also created a profile page called “Hemsky Running” that has already collected 177 fans.

O’Mahoney emphasized that the TCC still loves fan enjoyment and passion, but just wants to create safe environment in the arena for all fans.

“There are lots of things he could do (instead), there are other traditions to be created,” she said. “We want the fan involvement, but we want it to be in a safe environment.”

The Rocky Run tradition may be over, but Reese said he feels honored to see the support he’s been given by his fellow fans.

“I didn’t really expect anybody to really (care), but for them to come out … that means a lot, it really does,” Reese said. “You never really think people care until it’s gone. You really realize that people are really good and they care about what’s right.”

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