The Red Wings are out of the NHL Playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but the Grand Rapids Griffins are still alive in the AHL Playoffs, and that means Detroit hockey fans looking for a little hockey love may be coming to GR.

And to that we say, 'Welcome to the Party'.

Can we start calling GR 'Hockeytown West'?

In an article published last Thursday, even before the Griffins earned a spot in the Calder Cup Finals, the Detroit News paid homage to the hockey scene here in Grand Rapids.

Consider it a love letter to Griffin fans.

Entitled 'Grand Rapids Love The High Flying Griffins', the piece chronicles the rise of the Arena District as a part of the renaissance of downtown GR.

The arena is generally considered the trigger for the rebirth and sprawl of downtown Grand Rapids.

“I’ve worked downtown since 1990, and before the arena, you can really say at 5:15 p.m. the sidewalks were rolled up and there wasn’t much going on,” (Tom) Gortsema said. “Now, there are restaurants, bars, entertainment options, retail, springing up everywhere.”

Also featured are the die hard Griffs fans who roam the aisles of Van Andel Arena.

Like Tom Payne, the guy who brings his monkey puppet to every game. (Who knew?)

Tom Payne basically schedules around the Griffins games at Van Andel Arena. He lost his wife approximately five years ago; both were Griffins fans. Payne still attends every game with his puppet, a monkey wearing a Griffins jersey, or a referee outfit, and entertains kids sitting nearby.

“It’s the most fun you can have,” said Payne, of the hockey games. “The atmosphere is second to none. For me, there’s nothing better. And as we keep winning this season, it only gets better.”

Featuring 22 photos of the arena and its denizens, the best compliment of all from the article comes from fan favorite Mitch Callahan, who gave his love back to the city that embraced him.

“I might be biased, but this is the best American Hockey League city there is,” said Griffins forward Mitch Callahan, whose late third-period goal Wednesday snapped a 2-2 tie. “The other night I was out to dinner; a guy bought me an appetizer and wished me good luck before we went to California. The city is behind us and the support is amazing. Hockey is pretty big in Michigan. With the success we’re having, it’s fun being around here.”

The Calder Cup Finals against the Syracuse Crunch begins Friday night at Van Andel Arena. Tickets are availaable at



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