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Tuesday, September 02, 2014
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Published: Monday, 1/13/2014 - Updated: 7 months ago

Walleye fan honored as 1 in million

BY MARK MONROE
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Anthony, 10, left, and his father Gary Stiff, of West Toledo attended the game. Gary Stiff was declared the team's millionth fan since the beginning of the 2009 season. Anthony, 10, left, and his father Gary Stiff, of West Toledo attended the game. Gary Stiff was declared the team's millionth fan since the beginning of the 2009 season.
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A spur of the moment decision to attend a Walleye game paid off for West Toledoan Gary Stiff on Sunday.

Stiff, who brought his 10-year-old son Anthony to the game, was honored as the 1 millionth fan to attend a Walleye game at the Huntington Center.

The 28-year-old security guard said he was stunned when he was singled out as he passed through the turnstile.

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“I’ve had some pretty good things go on in my life, but nothing special like this,” Stiff said. “This is interesting.”

As the 1 millionth fan, Stiff and his son dropped the ceremonial puck before the game. They also picked out Walleye jerseys from the Swamp Shop and received a gift basket that included hats, pucks, and other items. They also were interviewed on the team’s radio and TV broadcasts.

Stiff was among a crowd of 5,888 on Sunday, which brought the total attendance to 1,003,386 over the organization's four and a half years of existence.

“We’ve been so blessed with the support we have in Toledo,” Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said. “We have such great sports fans, it's not surprising that it happened as quickly as it has. We’re thankful.”

The Walleye have played four games this season to sell-out crowds and 43 games since their 2009 inaugural season.

Stiff said he only attends about two games a year.

“But I really do enjoy coming here. It's always a fun time,” he said.

Anthony, who will turn 11 on Friday, received an early birthday present.

At first, Stiff said he thought something might be wrong when a Walleye staff member pulled him aside.

“I wondered what they wanted from me,” he said. “She said, ‘It’s your special day,’ and she said ‘Follow me.’ I thought this was something really interesting or I should be really concerned. She told me, ‘We’re going to take care of you the rest of the night.’ It's kind of neat.”



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