TOLEDO, Ohio — After a year and a half hockey dry spell, the Toledo Walleye were back on the ice Saturday night, much to the delight of fans.
Home openers are always special for the Walleye or any team. But it's a little more special this year after the pandemic canceled the team's entire season last year.
"Everybody has been waiting for the walleye season to start," said Connie Myer, whose grandson, Gordi Myer, is debuting as a Walleye, "and they were so disappointed last year as everything was at a standstill. And now everybody is ready to go."
One place that is finally ready to go is right across the street, about 30 steps from the Huntington Center. Daniel Martinez owns Downtown Johnny's, which closed back in March 2020 after the Walleye season was canceled and didn't reopen til May.
"About 75 percent of our revenue comes from events happening at the Huntington Center," said Martinez.
That includes Walleye games. People made their way to the arena to cheer on their favorite fish. That included Kevin Schwartz, a lifelong Toledo hockey fan who says the sport and Downtown Johnny's helped him get through cancer a few years back.
"There is no other bar in Toledo, no other person besides Dan Martinez that would mean more to me," said Schwartz.
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Myer watched her grandson Gordi debut as a Walleye in front of a hometown crowd. And she says the homeopener truly is a home opening back up to the city.
"The Mud Hens did just as much to bring it back," she added. "They had a great great year and now we're moving right along and everything is exploding in downtown Toledo."
The fish are here and they're back to full strength.