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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IceGators Add Ice, Spice to Cajun Country

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana -- The last time anyone can remember a snowfall that whitened the ground in this southwest Louisiana city was back in 1969.


This is a place where ice has always been something you put in drinks and under oysters.


Even so, the hottest thing in Cajun country these days is the Louisiana IceGators, a minor league hockey team.


"This is the place to be and the sport to follow around here,'' said 18-year-old Jeremy Rabalais, who wore an IceGators jersey at a recent home game. "At first I didn't understand anything except when they scored, but now I know the game and love it.''


He's got lots of company. People are regularly abandoning the dance floor at Mulate's for the seats of the Cajundome to watch the first-year ECHL franchise.


Through 28 home games this season, 17 were sellouts and the IceGators top league attendance by better than 55,000.


First-year attendance in the 11,026-seat Cajundome was projected at 6,000 per game. It has averaged closer to 10,000.


"People love it,'' said Dome executive director Greg Davis, himself an avid fan. "It's a complete entertainment package. Families come and have a wonderful time. I like it better than basketball.''


Indeed, from the pregame light show with the booming rendition of "Thus Spake Zarathustra" and the players skating onto the ice from a swirl of smoke, to the giveaways of dinners, phone calling cards, gift certificates to hardware stores and oil-change shops, the action never stops.


When the IceGators score, the fans dance with arms extended, clapping them together to indicate a gator chomping away. During pauses in the game, music plays and they dance in the aisles.


"It's the biggest thing that's happening in Lafayette,'' said Malcom Thibodaux of nearby Napoleonville, who had never liked hockey on television.


Helped by a first-place berth throughout much of the season, people quickly fell in love with the fast-moving sport and the party atmosphere.


"`I wondered if there were any rules,'' said Gretchen Ebow, a student attending her first game. "I've never seen it before, not even on TV, but it's really fun.''