Thousands of excited hockey fans turned out at the Berglund Center Friday night to see professional hockey officially return to Roanoke.
The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs faced off against the Knoxville Ice Bears for opening night of their very first season.
On Friday morning, Berglund Center officials announced the game was close to selling out, so they opened up another 900 corner seats to accommodate more fans.
After a ten-year hiatus from professional hockey in Roanoke, many fans said they were more than glad to see their new team finally hitting the ice.
“I was raised with it,” said Katie Ashworth, one of the hockey fans. “Back when we had the old teams, we used to house hockey players. And it’s just in my blood.”
Ashworth said hockey has always been a big part of her life. At Friday’s game, she got to share her love of the sport with her kids at their first professional hockey game.
“The four-year-old is very excited,” she said.
Lyndsey and Daniel Devlin were excited to watch the game not only as fans, but also as young hockey players.
“I like the skating and my friends,” Lyndsey said.
“I like scoring,” Daniel added.
For many hockey fans at the game, the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs’ debut brought back memories of previous pro hockey teams in the Roanoke Valley.
“My grandmother and grandfather were season ticket holders,” said Robin Shorter. “And we always sat there with them and just loved it.”
Many fans told us they’re looking forward to the rest of the season and hope to see the crowds keep coming back.
Trevor Wright said he is happy “to see hockey in a good…atmosphere and interest back into the Roanoke area.”
The Rail Yard Dawgs’ next game is Saturday in Knoxville, according to officials. Their next home game is set for November 4.