By Andy Kent and Greg Hardwig
Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. — Just how far- reaching is this Florida Everblades craze?
Try all the way to Mickey Mouse’s backyard in Orlando, where Richie and Cristina Calderale are from. The fanatical couple made the three-hour drive from central Florida to take in Friday night’s Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals against the Idaho Steelheads.
And they drove back right after the game because Richie, a fire dispatcher, has to work another 12-hour shift today, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
It wasn’t too difficult to spot the out-of-towners as they were carrying a bright red Orlando Seals jersey, the minor league hockey team from their neck of the woods that has played for three different leagues in two years.
The name on the back of the jersey belonged to Everblades defenseman Mark White, and Richie Calderale planned on getting White to autograph it.
Before becoming Seals fans, Calderale was a season ticket holder with the Orlando Solar Bears of the now-defunct International Hockey League.
“I have come to at least one game every season of the Everblades’ existence,” Richie said. “Then the year the Solar Bears didn’t play (in 2001), I became almost like an Everblades season ticket holder, coming to almost every game.”
Cristina got hooked on hockey from her very first exposure, which happened to come at TECO Arena for an Everblades game. The couple has grown impressed with hockey at the ECHL level and said they wouldn’t mind seeing an ECHL team come to Orlando’s TD Waterhouse Centre.