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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of March 27 - April 2, 2002


The state of the rivalry is strong

Middle fingers and all

Express Staff Writer

Saturday’s great hockey game won by the Sun Valley Suns 5-4 over the host Jackson Hole Moose ended like all hockey games should—a pulled goalie, vitally important face-offs deep in the Suns zone and two tired teams straining with every inch of their beings.

The fans were into it, too.

If they fought Friday night, the Suns skated away from possible fights and avoided penalties Saturday because they had one goal in mind—beating the Moose. Express photo by Willy Cook

In fact, when the game was done, the Moose fans threw cups of beer over the plexiglass at the victorious Suns. Seeing it, the small but vocal group of Suns fans lifted their middle fingers in the direction of the Moose rooters, and the upraised fingers were returned.

So you had Sun Valley and Jackson Hole giving each other the finger, and then everybody sucked it up and walked out of the rink side-by-side.

The state of the rivalry seems strong and healthy.

Jackson Hole in a space of five short years has created a wonderfully strong base of fans who stridently support their team. They could chill out a little more, if last weekend was any indication, but the Suns have had 27 years to go through their hockey ups-and-downs.

Remember, the rivalry didn’t exist six years ago. But the Suns always talked about the advantages of having a strong rival within a four-hour drive. And they encouraged the Moose founders back in 1996 by offering their list of contacts and teams that routinely visited Sun Valley for games.

And now they’ve reached a parity where any team can win on any given night. Two mountain towns otherwise occupied by skiing in the winter have been turned on and revved up by the rivalry.

Suns captain Chris Benson said, "Both teams realize our games are big moneymakers and it’s good hockey. We should play each other eight times over the season."

Granted, the two teams don’t like each other very much. They don’t socialize, certainly not on a par with the Minnesota and New England hockey teams that visit Sun Valley each year and play games as a prelude to the party downtown. But with their two wins over the Moose this winter, the Suns have dispelled the oft-repeated Jackson Hole notion that Sun Valley is a declining franchise.

The Sun fans certainly had plenty of spirit at Snow King—Matt Gorby helping to defend the outnumbered Kris Webster against the Moose crowd Friday, Wendy Speth telling the Moose coach what she thought of Jackson Hole on Saturday, and Tony Mallane needling in true bleacher bum fashion.

The fans did their part by buying the entertaining $10 Jackson Hole women’s hockey calendar that featured plenty of scantily-clothed Miss Februarys. And then the Suns girls went Jackson one better, as goalie Matt Gershater came out and filmed it on video tape before the decisive third period.

Six of them bared their midriffs and stood side-by-side, each wearing a letter to finally spell out "Go Suns," and give the boys one more shot of encouragement for their battle. The Suns loved the show of support and got a little more energy in their legs for the final push to beat the Moose.

For hockey fans, the next games between the teams can’t come soon enough.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.