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Published: Wednesday, 5/10/2006

Even mayor gets into the act

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Coach Nick Vitucci, left, and GM Pat Pylypuik don't seem to care Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's Storm sweater is a mite too big. Coach Nick Vitucci, left, and GM Pat Pylypuik don't seem to care Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's Storm sweater is a mite too big.
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Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, Toledo's biggest cheerleader, spoke energetically and glowingly about his favorite city's hockey team and its impressive playoff run yesterday at a pep rally at the Sports Arena.

The mayor urged local residents to support the Toledo Storm, which has reached the ECHL conference finals for the first time since 1996.

The team arrived home from Duluth, Ga., shortly before noon yesterday after a 12-hour bus ride following Game 2 of its American Conference series. The Storm won the game 4-3 in overtime Monday night to knot the best-of-seven series with Gwinnett at one game apiece.

Mayor Finkbeiner implored fans to attend Game 3 at the Sports Arena Friday at 7:35 p.m. and for the next two contests on Sunday and Tuesday.

"We want to pack this place the next three games so we don't have to go back to Georgia," Finkbeiner said.

About 30 fans attended the press conference and held signs with the team's new playoff motto, "Red, White and You."

Storm coach Nick Vitucci presented the mayor with a Storm jersey featuring his name and the number 06.

"You are fiery and passionate," Vitucci said. "I think it's similar to the passion this team has."

Finkbeiner also will be on hand Friday night to drop the puck before the contest.

He said the team's run through the playoffs, which includes a 7-3 record and 4-1 mark at home, is very inspiring and should continue to spark "Toledo pride.

"There are no more loyal fans than Toledo Storm hockey fans," he said. "This team has given to our community and we need to give back to the Toledo Storm."

Finkbeiner also touched upon the future of the franchise and the uncertainty of where it may play.

"The Toledo Storm should know that this mayor is not interested in any other hockey team but the one that we have," he said. "Whether we are playing here in a renovated, spruced up Sports Arena, or playing in a brand spanking new Sports Arena, I know one thing, we are going to be playing hockey in Toledo well into the foreseeable future.

"This franchise has been wonderful. The history and tradition of this franchise and its fan support is absolutely fantastic."

The team will be holding a "Zamboni parade" over the next three days through downtown Toledo. The team's mascot, Dukes, will have a mounted police escort for this morning's parade from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The parade will circle Fifth Third Field during tomorrow morning's Mud Hens' game.

Pucks will be given away to the first 300 fans at Friday's game. One of the pucks will be worth $1,500 in signed sports memorabilia.

Tickets are still available for all three games. For more information call 419-691-0200.

Contact Mark Monroe at:

mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.



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