October 31, 2017
By: Kristi Fulkerson
This October marked the start of the fourth season of Phantoms hockey in Allentown. It’s been fun to see fans continue to pack the PPL Center for home games where the team is 4-1 this month. What’s also impressive is the dedication by the Phantoms players themselves to reciprocate that community support during the 8 months they call the region home. 

Few do it with as much dedication as third-year forward and Quebec native, Danick Martel, who has made nine community appearances already this season. “If those people were not there, there’s no hockey in Allentown. So if i can just bring something from the Phantoms to the community, I’ll do it.”

And his teammates echo that sentiment. Some would say, “it’s part of their job”, and sure it’s expected to an extent, but these guys enjoy it, they volunteer to partake and even come up with ways to give back themselves. The players are regularly visiting the Lehigh Valley Children’s hospital and Phantoms Youth Hockey practices, they read at local elementary schools and are part of an initiative to promote floor hockey in area schools - donating equipment and running brief clinics. They host the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization for a night in the locker room and are willing to help as needed throughout the community.

Oh and they still have their day jobs. 

And as much as being a hockey player seems like a dream to most, there’s a lot that goes in to playing at the professional level. Besides the hours of on-ice and off-ice workouts, strength and conditioning,(countless) meetings, and film study each day are the sacrifices that come along with playing the game they love. Topping the list for many is being away from their families for months at a time. 

Phantoms veteran forward Chris Conner and his wife Lindsay had their third child in August. When baby Easton was just a few weeks old, his dad was off to Phantoms training camp in Pennsylvania, a 4 hour plane ride from Michigan where his family would stay. Radel Fazleev of Kazan, Russia, lives five thousand miles from home. 5 thousand. Not to mention that when he first played in America (last season) he also had to learn a new language and culture - a transition fellow Russian Mikhail Vorobyev is going through now. 

Fazleev was among the players who delivered season tickets to fans prior to opening night. At both stops, meeting team supporters that had recently visited his home country. 

“There’s a big difference between US and Russia,” the 21-year-old said after meeting the season ticket holders. “Everything is different there and they get to see it and feel it. They probably  understand a little bit what I’m feeling like and how hard it is to come from Russia to here.”

Despite Allentown being only a temporary home for the team, they treat it like the real thing. Less than a month into the 2017-18 season, Phantoms players have already participated in 20 community appearances. Over the last three seasons, the team has made over 250 player appearances. In addition, the Phantoms School Programs (Bully Busters Unite & G.O.A.L.), run by Director of Public Relations Dan Fremuth, have performed 149 programs, reaching 44,000 elementary students. 

So even if you’re not a hockey lover (yet!), come support a Phantoms team that’s trying their best to make a difference on and off the ice. 

Shameless plug: You can see all home games live on Service Electric TV2 Sports and our weekly ‘Breaking the Ice’ show airs Mondays at 8:00p.m.