By Alan Morrell,
Democrat and Chronicle,
December 14, 2012
Virginia Paddock first went to a Rochester Americans hockey game with her sister, Ann, in 1967.
Then, they went to another game. And then another. They bought season tickets, and haven’t missed many games in the past 45 years.
“Oh, God, I couldn’t begin to tell you how many,” Virginia Paddock said.
“Unless something drastic comes up, I’m there. “Back then, we just went to a few games, loved it, and we’ve been going ever since.”
For the past five years, Paddock, who lives in Gates, has been president of the Americans’ booster club. That’s allowed her to get even better acquainted with players, coaches and front-office staff of the team, commonly called the Amerks, as well as the community.
The booster club has about 220 members, Paddock said, and does a variety of activities. They sponsor a family for Christmas every year, buying gifts and food. They sell raffle tickets, with proceeds going toward youth hockey organizations and charities. They have made dinners for Rochester firefighters, and, for the past five years, put together scrapbooks of news articles and game highlights that are given to players at the end of the season.
“Our booster club members, in addition to being loyal fans, they do a lot for us,” said Amerks communication manager Warren Kosel. “Virginia and her sister are founding members of the booster club, in addition to a few others. It shows you the passion they have. It speaks to their dedication and loyalty.”
Paddock, 69, a native of Wellsville, Allegany County, moved to the Rochester area in 1962 and to Gates in 1979. She left the Southern Tier when she got a nursing job at Strong Memorial Hospital. She left Strong in 1984 and took a job as night supervisor at an area nursing home, from where she retired in 2005.
That left her more time for hockey — including road trips to see the Amerks at other arenas. Paddock said she has followed her team to games in locales such as Norfolk, Cleveland, Baltimore, Milwaukee and Chicago. Her favorite place to see a game, other than downtown Rochester, is Hershey, Pa.
Paddock said she followed baseball while growing up in Wellsville, but her sports allegiance shifted to hockey in Rochester.
“It’s a fast-paced game,” she said. “It’s an interesting game. You’re closer to the game than you are at a baseball or basketball game. In the old days, we didn’t have plexiglass (separating fans from the ice). We had chicken wire. We were three rows back, behind the visiting team. We used to feed them popcorn and peanuts.”
Paddock never played hockey and never had a desire to do so.
“I have enough trouble standing on the ice outside,” she said.
Paddock’s love of hockey is mainly dedicated to the Amerks and the minor league version. Her road trips have included visits to only three National Hockey League arenas — in Buffalo, Boston and Pittsburgh. The NHL players, she said, include “too many men with swelled heads.” The multimillion-dollar paychecks lead to attitudes and barriers that you don’t encounter at Amerks games, Paddock
“I haven’t been to an NHL game in I don’t know how long,” she said with disdain in her voice.
The NHL season remains on hold this season, with players and management locked in a bitter labor dispute. The NHL lockout — the second work stoppage since the 2004-05 season, which was canceled — exacerbated Paddock’s scorn for the big league.
“They’re adult men,” she said. “This should have been settled in the summer. Put them all in a room and let them hammer it out.”
Meanwhile, Paddock still has her Amerks. The Blue Cross Arena, which the team calls home, is full of great characters, she said. The booster club recently held its annual “Meet the Players” dinner, and club members have been ringing bells for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign.
True to her booster spirit, Paddock complains that too much media coverage is devoted to the Buffalo Bills football team and the Syracuse Orange basketball team at the expense of the Amerks this time of year.
“It’s not the Rochester Bills. It’s not the Rochester Orange. We’re the Rochester team, and we should take precedence over them,” Paddock said, with all the subtlety of a slap shot to the head. Paddock jokes that she serves as booster club president “because no one else wanted to do it.” But she proudly relayed that the club was inducted, as a whole, to the Frontier Field Walk of Fame this year. And, she admits, the club is close to her heart.
“We do a lot in the community,” Paddock said. “I don’t want the club to fold. It would be a big loss, not only to the team, but to the community in general.”
GET TO KNOW VIRGINIA PADDOCK
- Favorite all-time Amerks players: Gordie Clark, Doug Gibson and Yvon Lambert.
- Favorite Amerks team: The 1986-87 team, which won the Calder Cup.
- Favorite Amerks player this year: Marcus Foligno.
- Favorite Amerks memorabilia: Several jerseys that she owns, including some that are autographed.