On Sunday afternoon several Erie fans told the Golden Knights goodbye and gave them a symbolic hug as the team departed the Hammermill Center via a bus headed for Springfield, Mass., and the Division II Elite 8. The pep rally contrasted sharply to the atmosphere the last time Gannon headed to Springfield for the DII quarterfinals. I was a sophomore on that 1989-90 team, and instead participating in a feel-good family-friendly event, we quietly stuffed ourselves and our equipment into a couple vans prior to dawn with not one human wishing us farewell.
What I recall most about that morning is that two of my teammates (senior starters Dave Callahan and Andy Adams) and I almost missed the bus. I was a commuter my first three years at Gannon, so to save time that morning I stayed overnight at Dave and Andy's apartment, located about 7 blocks from the Hammermill. We would be traveling most of the day -- to the Erie Airport then flying Erie to Philly to Hartford and then driving about 45 minutes to Springfield. Most adults would be thinking, "That's going to be a tough morning. I better turn in early." But the mind of the college kid says, "We don't have practice in the morning, and I bet I can sleep on the plane. Plus, we're the most popular kids on campus -- I'm sure someone will buy a drink for me!" So Andy and Dave trekked that night to the Shaggy Dog. I stayed back and fell asleep on their couch; I was 20 at the time so I was still underage. (In today's world, if I went to The Dog as a 2o-year-old, I'd be one of the oldest patrons there. They'd probably call me "gramps.")
Next thing I know Andy is yelling at me to wake up. Nobody had set the alarm clock, and we woke up just 15 minutes before we were supposed to report to the Audi. Forget taking a shower and brushing my teeth. I didn't want to encounter Coach Dukiet's wrath. I figured my only option for punishment was kicking me off the team; Duke couldn't bench me because I was already there. The situation was worse for Andy and Dave because they hadn't even packed yet. I don't recall how we made it to the Hammermill, but we got there just in the nick of time. A photographer from the Times News was preparing to snap a team photo in front of one of the vans. We caught our breath and extended an index finger to let everyone know our goal for the trip. I don't have the photo with me, but I recall that Andy's eyes were nearly closed. I don't think it was because he was blinking.