Wildcat hockey team has special pair of super fans

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Kevin West and Cynthia Taylor enjoy another Alpena Wildcat hockey practice in their usual seats at Northern Lights Arena on Friday. The two have been called Alpena’s “super fans” by the Wildcat coaches and players.

ALPENA–Alpena has always been considered a hockey town.

This year the Wildcats have re-energized the Alpena hockey program, the community, the fan base and all who follow with a stellar season that continues Saturday with a chance at capturing a regional crown.

Of all the fans who have supported the Wildcats on their journey this season, two individuals stand out above the rest and have been deemed “super fans” by head coach Chris Limback, his staff and the rest of the Alpena hockey team.

Kevin West and Cynthia Taylor have been with the team every step of the way this season.

The two watched tryouts in October and have attended nearly every practice and game that the Wildcats have played this season.

“We like hockey. We saw they were having tryouts for hockey and decided to go watch. We just came to tryouts and started coming to all of the events and it was fun to watch,” Taylor said. “We didn’t really notice that anyone was watching us or recognized we were there. We get great enjoyment out of watching them.”

West has a house in Phoenix, Arizona and Taylor has one in Alpena. The two graduated from Sault Ste. Marie High School together.

After graduating, the two went their separate ways and eventually found their way back to each other.

Normally the two would be in Phoenix, but this winter didn’t work out as planned and they stayed in Alpena.

After watching the Alpena football practices in the fall, West and Taylor decided to attend the hockey tryouts since they were around. Since the tryouts, the two are regulars at practices and have watched the Wildcats all season long.

Neither have any grandkids or family members associated with the team and it took the Wildcats a while to figure out who these two fans were.

“All of the kids were wondering, whose grandparents are these and by the time the coach (Chris Limback) had talked to everyone, they had found out we weren’t anyone’s grandparents,” Taylor said. “I like the practices better than the games. The games make me very nervous, even though we usually score first, which had me worried on Thursday, but they pulled through. I would just rather watch the practices because they don’t make me nervous and I just love all the stick handling, watching them skate fast and all of the different drills that they do and then watch them do it in a game.”

West is an avid hockey fan and grew up playing the sport and had quite a career playing collegiately and even after college.

West is more than impressed with this talented group of Wildcats and always watches very closely during each practice and game and has enjoyed watching this special group of hockey players.

“Chris (Limback) is the boss and that’s the way it should be, but he gives input to his assistants and I’m sure he does a lot that I don’t see and he coaches the right way,” West said. “He treats the kids with dignity and people that talk to him come away with a positive image of the Alpena hockey team. He also believes education is the most important reason the kids are out there and this team has a lot of bright young men. They are going to be leaders and something special in the future and that’s what it’s all about in my mind.”

As the season has gone on and the team had started to notice the two attending practices, most of the times being the only ones in the rink along with the team, the relationship between the team and their fans began to grow.

West and Taylor would arrive at the rink before the team would get on the bus for away games and greet the players with a send off. As easy as the two are to pick out at an empty Northern Lights Arena at practice, both West and Taylor are now easy to pick out of crowd for the Wildcats when they take the ice during games.

“We are just here to watch what a good coach will do with a good team. I consider this a very good team with some outstanding players,” West said. “Will that make them one of the best ever or in Michigan, maybe not, but it definitely makes it worth watching and the parents get a treat when they see these kids play.”

The relationship between the team and the two fans has grown so much that the Wildcats know and refer to West and Taylor as their “super fans.”

With the postseason in full swing, no one knows when this season may finish or the practices will come to an end.

Alpena has shown all of the potential and has all the pieces to continue its magical run.

The Wildcats’ next challenge comes today as they try to snap a decade long drought and hoist a regional trophy in Gaylord.

Alpena is sure to have a large following once again and their super fans are hoping to see their team win another big game.

“It would be great to see. Success is the payoff of all the hard work they’ve done and they deserve every bit of acclaim they get,” West said. “The pride and ability to look back on what they did when they were in high school makes these kids on this team something out of the ordinary, something special, something this town is talking about and we’re going to keep going as long as we can and they hopefully will do the same.”