Griffins revel in playoff atmosphere
It’s not often that a city changes its name to avoid confusion during a hockey playoff series.
That’s how seriously West Michigan is taking its hockey.
As the Grand Rapids Griffins begin their American Hockey League Western Conference Semifinal series against the Rockford (Ill.) IceHogs Wednesday night, various promotions will be held and the Grand Rapids suburb of Rockford has officially changed its name — for obvious reasons.
With home ice advantage, Games 1 and 2 will be at Van Andel Arena Wednesday and Friday. Games 3, 4 and 5 will be in Rockford, Ill. And if necessary, Games 6 and 7 will be May 19 and 20 at Van Andel Arena.
To alleviate confusion, the city council of Rockford, Mich., voted to change its name for the next two weeks until the playoff series is over.
“Given the high stakes of the Calder Cup playoffs and our city’s ardent support of the Griffins, the last thing we want is for anyone to confuse us with our namesake in Illinois, or to think we have any residual affinity for anything from there, including the IceHogs,” Griffinville City Manager Michael Young said. “This change, which will remain in effect until May 20 or the conclusion of the Griffins-IceHogs series, reaffirms our residents’ allegiance to the Griffins.”
The name change is Rockford’s second in its history. Originally named Laphamville, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad Company wanted a shorter name for the village. A suggestion from a newly arrived resident from Rockford, Ill., won out in 1865.
In early 2014, Rockford Brewing Co. in Illinois filed suit in the U.S. District Court in Illinois against Rockford Brewing Co. of Griffinville.
The city even made a new Facebook page.
This week, the Griffins have teamed with Van Andel Arena and three downtown restaurants to offer several pig-centric specials.
Prior to Wednesday’s Game 1, Buffalo Wild Wings, J. Gardella’s Tavern and Peppino’s Sports Grille will offer specials featuring pork to ticket holders.
On Friday, Van Andel Arena will host an outdoor pig roast on its Fulton Street brick plaza. Game 2 begins at 7 p.m., but fans can receive an $8 barbecued pork sandwich combo beginning at 5 p.m. Fans with a ticket can take the food indoors.
The Griffins finished the season atop the Midwest Division with a 46-22-6-2 record and 100 points.
To reach the semifinals, Grand Rapids came back from a 0-2 series hole and won all three of its home games to take the best of five series from the Toronto Marlies. It was just the 11th time in AHL history that a team came back after trailing a series 0-2.
Forward Teemu Pulkkinen, who led the AHL with 31 goals in 46 games — he spent 31 games with the Detroit Red Wings — scored six goals in the five-game series.
Moving forward, playoff series will be best-of-seven. During the regular season, the Griffins and IceHogs split their eight meetings with four wins apiece.
Rockford and Grand Rapids often play physical games, including a memorable matchup during the Griffins’ run to the 2013 Calder Cup Championship.
A game between the teams on Jan. 19, 2013, resulted in a Griffins’ record 139 penalty minutes from a brawl during second period. Six current Griffins are on the roster, including captain Jeff Hoggan.
The Griffins won the game 11-6, setting a franchise record for goals in a game.