NORFOLK, Va. - October 22 is a big day inside the Norfolk Scope.
There, the Norfolk Admirals hockey team will play its first game at home in 594 days.
For Patrick Cavanagh, the team's owner, it's a second chance at a first impression. He took over the team in 2019, but his first season was cut short by COVID-19. The Admirals then opted out of what would have been his second season.
"The guys are champing at the bit to get on this ice and show themselves to this community," he told News 3 the Wednesday before the game, with crews below working to get the arena in order before the team's big return.
It's a new beginning for the Norfolk Admirals, who this year announced a new affiliation with the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes; just one result of the constant work Cavanagh says his team put in during the 18 months without play.
Other changes mainly center around fan experience.
“Our fans are the most important thing, really, to get this team together because when they’re screaming and they’re hollering, the players hear it and they’re excited. It’s all connected together," said Admirals Head Coach Rod Taylor.
"We're sitting in a new area called Admirals Quarters, which is going to be a fun spot for groups to watch the game from," added Cavanagh during our interview with him and Taylor in the new space high above the rink. "Our suites, our Party Pad, our season ticket holders and all our fans that are going to come are just going to have a new experience."
A #WeAre757 experience, specifically...that actually starts before the puck even drops, at a restaurant across the street called Southern Eats.
"We probably lost a good 60, 70 percent of our weekly sales," said owner Ginnele Shonyo of how the lack of a 2020-21 season hurt her business. It's a struggle she first revealed to News 3 last December.
Shonyo held on, though, and it paid off.
The Admirals are doubling down on a partnership she and Cavanagh first struck when she opened in 2019.
Southern Eats will now be the 'Hockey Hub' of Downtown Norfolk, Shonyo says. A meeting spot before and during home games and the viewing location for away games.
She hopes the season is a success for herself and her neighbors across the street at the Norfolk Scope.
"I'd love to see people coming out and they're supporting the Admirals. I'd love to see them come support us as well. We're huge Admiral fans over here," she said.
And there are thousands more ready to cheer on the Norfolk Admirals for their long-awaited return.