By Jesse D. Eisenberg
Add the Bridgeport Sound Tigers to the list of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. Many of the Islanders American Hockey League affiliate’s players, staff and fans saw their homes subject to the storm’s devastating winds and flooding earlier this week.
True to the team’s name, most Sound Tigers players reside along the Connecticut shoreline, adjacent to the Long Island Sound. That spelled disaster for several players, as Hurricane Sandy reshaped much of the Eastern seaboard.
“We came home to destruction,” defenseman Jon Landry said. “We came around to the back of our house and it looked like a war zone. Our back porch, which was about 20 feet by 20 feet, was completely gone...no sign of it anywhere.”
Landry shares a house in Milford with teammates Ty Wishart and Blair Riley. Fortunately, the trio had the foresight to move most of their belongings to the second floor before the storm hit.
The Sound Tigers played three road games in Massachusetts last weekend. Following Sunday afternoon’s contest in Worcester, the club returned to Bridgeport and players were instructed to gather their belongings before evacuating to Springfield, MA Sunday night.
“We were told to just get our clothes,” Matt Donovan said. He and fellow defenseman Aaron Ness don’t live on the ground floor, but Donovan added, “Some of the guys who live directly on the beach brought more of their belongings with them.”
The club was in Springfield for the worst of the storm, practicing daily at the Mass Mutual Center, home of the Springfield Falcons. As the team prepared for this weekend’s home games, the storm was never far from their thoughts.
“No one’s really been through something like this so we didn’t know what to expect or when we could possibly be going back to our houses,” Donovan said. “It was weird being in Springfield and wondering if our house was still standing.”
The club returned to assess the damage in Connecticut on Wednesday.
“When we walked in, there was sand and debris all over the first floor,” Landry said. “Everything had been pushed by the sand and waves to the front of the house. Furniture (was) completely damaged, plates broken.”
Landry, Riley and Wishart appear to be the only players in need of a new residence, but no Sound Tigers homes went untouched by the storm.
“Our street was destroyed when we got home Wednesday,” Donovan said. “Everyone was cleaning up and shoveling the roads for all the sand on the street. There are still a few feet of sand on our street and debris everywhere.”
Recognizing that many in the Bridgeport area won’t be able to return to “usual” for some time, the Sound Tigers organization announced Thursday that their two weekend home games will be free of charge to the general public.
“We’ve seen the damage - we feel it,” said Bridgeport Sound Tigers President Howard Saffan. “We want to give back to the community. With the help of Hearst Media Services and Cox Communications, we intend on getting the word out. We encourage you to bring your friends and family to Webster Bank Arena this weekend and enjoy yourselves during this difficult time.”
The club plays the Hershey Bears on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 3 p.m.
Courtesy of Webster Bank, fans can pick up tickets at the Webster Bank Arena Click It Or Ticket Box Office. Box office hours will run from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Friday, and from 10:00 a.m. through game time on Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please call the box office at (203) 345-2300.