The Stockton Record
FRESNO, Calif. – Jean Savoie sat in his seat at Save Mart Center and smiled as he watched the Stockton Thunder warm up prior to its first game.
The Canadian native has lived in Stockton for 35 years, and he’s thrilled there’s finally a hockey team in town.
Savoie was one of more than 100 Thunder fans who traveled to Fresno to watch the Thunder open its inaugural season. The team arranged for a fan bus, but Savoie and his wife Jeanie drove down to show their support.
“This is the sport I love, and I’ve wanted there to be a team in Stockton since I moved here,” said Savoie, who was born in Montreal. “When I heard they were coming, I just couldn’t wait.”
Jeanie Savoie is new to the sport, but she understands her husband’s enthusiasm.
“He’s been so excited, and I can see why,” Jeanie Savoie said. “It’s very exciting.”
Jean and Jeanie Savoie were surrounded by several rows of Thunder fans. Many wore jerseys, caps or sweatshirts and weren’t bashful about showing their support for the visiting team.
“It looks like there are enough of us here for self protection,” Mike Chamberlain of Lodi said with a laugh. “There are a lot of us here.”
Chamberlain was among 55 people who took the team bus ride to Fresno. There was eating, laughing and talk of hockey along the way, and they all knew they were on their way to watch a moment in Stockton sports history.
“It is important for the city, and the ride down was a lot of fun,” said Charlotte Francischine of Lodi, who went to the game with her husband Bob. “Everybody was so excited to have hockey in Stockton.”
They will have to wait until Dec. 10 to actually see a game in Stockton. It was announced by city officials on Friday that the home opener, originally scheduled for Dec. 3, was postponed a week.
But several fans said they weren’t worried about that on Saturday, and this team is worth the wait.
“It doesn’t bother me at all,” Bob Francischine said. “I don’t think we lost anything, and I’m just so pleased we have the Thunder.”