The Quad-City Storm have only been around for one season, but their time in the area has already left a big impact.
Members of the Storm returned to the Quad-Cities this past weekend to participate in the National DekHockey Association Summer Tournament, their first time back since the season ended in April.
They couldn't wait to come back.
"It honestly feels like I haven't left," goaltender Peter DiSalvo said. "Just driving down here, we just wanted the drive to be over with, we wanted to be back here so badly. Honestly, I don't want to go home; I wish the season was starting."
There's still three months before the Storm open their season on the road against the Peoria Rivermen on Oct. 19, but head coach Dave Pszenyczny seems to be understanding that the success of the franchise, only entering its second season, depends on more than just what happens on the ice.
"With everything you need to survive in the game nowadays, you need good human beings," Pszenyczny said. "These guys are starting to understand what it takes to be professionals. They want to come back."
The Storm played several games over the weekend, winning some and losing some, but always to a strong crowd at Bettendorf's Crow Creek Park.
"That's a reflection on our fans, too," Pszenyczny said. "We're here at the dek tournament, and even after we scored to make it 5-1 or whatever, we're getting blown out, but people are still cheering for us. That speaks volumes, and it's one of those things where I try to explain to guys, make the best of where you're at."
The summer is usually reserved for players to relax and recover from a grueling season. It's when they can return home, work another job, and work out in preparation for next season. But several felt coming back to participate in the tournament — which featured over 50 teams from around the country and even included a team from Canada — was important to show their investment in their second home.
"It's great to get in the community and show we care in the offseason, too. It's not just an in-season thing; it's a year-round thing," forward Dalton Mills said. "I love the area, what Chezy's building here is really special. When everyone's going to buy in here, we're going to do well. We have an unbelievable facility, an unbelievable fan base and community that supports us.
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"It's really becoming a destination spot for hockey."
The area has impressed newcomers, too. Defenseman Carl Greco is a new signing to the team and was also in the Quad-Cities this weekend for the tournament. Greco, 25, played 13 games with the Fayetteville Marksmen and 12 with the Pensacola Ice Flyers, scoring one goal and adding eight assists between the two locations before leaving to finish the season overseas.
In the Quad-Cities for his first time this weekend, Greco is already settling in.
"Everyone's been so friendly, it's so awesome, so welcoming and I've never really had that before," Greco said. "As soon as I had signed, a bunch of the guys reached out to me, and it felt so friendly, so I thought, you know what, if it's this welcoming, I want to be familiar with what I'm going down to.
"I love it, it's awesome. People were saying it's going to be cold, but that's what hockey's about. It doesn't feel like hockey if you're playing on the beach."
It's clear that off the ice, the Storm are doing the right things to endear themselves to the community, including donating more than $162,000 to charities last season. The next step is about improving on the ice after an 18-33-5 inaugural season and ninth place league finish.
The Storm have already signed 15 players, though only nine have been announced, and training camp opens Oct. 9.
"Last year, we had a little more physical team," Pszenyczny said. "This year, we're still going to be physical because I'm a firm believer the game of hockey is meant to be played physical. It doesn't matter if you're a goal-scorer, you can still finish checks.
"I'm not happy with our record last year but at the end of the day, I've got to get better as a coach, these guys are getting better. I'm liking what I'm seeing."