TOLEDO, Ohio — It has been a long time coming. Playoff hockey is back in the Glass City for the first time since 2019.
The energy inside Huntington Center is always terrific, but the playoffs, especially this series, has a special meaning.
"We are excited. It's a sold-out night. We're big hockey fans so we're ready to go!" Carley Mills said.
Tonight marks the first Walleye playoff game in almost three years. The last time the fish were in a postseason game, it was game 6 of the Kelly Cup playoffs in June 2019.
"This feels great, it's good to be back in the pond and be back in the playoffs going for the Kelly Cup," fan Jim Ripinski said.
Fans like Robert Scott have been with Toledo hockey since the days of the Storm and have been waiting for this moment for a long time.
"You can't beat the atmosphere. Playoff hockey. We've missed it for a couple years now. You don't realize what you have until it's gone," Scott said.
Scott went fishing for walleye - the real thing, that is - in Lake Erie before the game, accompanied by former Walleye and ECHL MVP Josh Kestner.
Kestner dropped the ceremonial puck, and Scott brought his catch into the Huntington Center in a plastic bag, just waiting for the first postseason goal.
"I'm just going to throw the fish out onto center ice, keep it civil and just keep the crowd going," Scott said.
And just five minutes into the game, Walleye forward John Albert found the back of the net, giving Scott his chance. The fish went flying onto center ice to thunderous applause before being picked up by a member of the ice crew.
"You just can't beat this," Scott said.
For the last two years, COVID-19 took the playoffs away from fans. Now, finally, after almost three years, fans can enjoy seeing the fish in late April once again.
The fans will be bringing the energy Saturday for Game 2 of the series versus Cincinnati.
The Toledo Walleye website says there are only a few hundred tickets left.
Puck drop is scheduled for 7:35 p.m.