That was Faye Shively Curren’s response when the email from the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs hit her inbox last week.
The hockey franchise needed to know what she wanted them to do with the money they owed her for games canceled by the coronavirus outbreak. Apply it to next season’s ticket deposit? Refund it via check?
Neither, she said.
Shively Curren, a real estate agent in Salem, has two front-row season tickets in Section 27, where the fans call themselves “the Rowdy Dawgs.” She’s not even sure how much she was due for the seven games that were lost; she estimates it was in the $200 neighborhood.
“I got to thinking about it and, first of all, I spent that money last year,” Shively Curren said. “I didn’t plan on having that money, nor did I plan on getting that money back. And then when this happened, I thought about the financial impact for the Dawgs’ organization — majority and minority owners alone — was going to be tremendous. I don’t think people realize the impact, and my heart goes out to our local guys.”
Of course, professional sports are not charities. Games are entertainment commodities. If you don’t get what you paid for, you have every right to accept the refund. Most affected fans are doing just that, especially with all the financial uncertainty surrounding the nation.
But even under these unprecedented circumstances, team president Mickey Gray says no fewer than 20 fans and corporate sponsors have elected to refuse their refund just as Shively Curren did.
“I cannot express how generous and appreciated that is,” Gray said. “That’s not something anybody has to do. Those that need an actual check refund, we’re in the process of issuing those as we speak. That’ll be a process. I imagine this whole process will take two to three weeks, at least.”
Shively Curren’s gesture, and those of others like her, won’t make much of a difference to the team’s bottom line. The Dawgs lost a quarter of their season — seven of 28 home games — and historically draw their best crowds when the weather begins to warm. Gray projects that three of their five highest-attended games of the season would have come during the canceled portion of their slate. That money can’t be recouped.
But the symbolism of Shively Curren’s decision — that people want to support our local businesses, including sports — is important. And it underscores the imprint this franchise has made in the Roanoke Valley landscape since its 2016-17 debut.
“I cannot oversell how big of a hit this is,” Gray said. “It’s massive. It’s going to take a couple weeks to get out from under it, but we’re going to be here. We will survive and will endure this.
“When we talk about building a viable business and a successful business, that’s not because I’m brilliant or any of us are amazing. It comes down to the support of the community. We’ve been very fortunate that this community has embraced us and allowed us to become that team that can survive this.”
Shively Curren is a fine example of that embrace.
She attended her first pro hockey game in the Roanoke Valley in 1967, her senior year at Andrew Lewis High School. The Salem Rebels played their home games at the Salem Civic Center, where chicken wire surrounded the ice.
Shively Curran was living in Wilmington, North Carolina, when the Dawgs returned hockey to the valley for the first time in 10 years. She bought season tickets and made the five-hour drive for every home game that inaugural season.
“And then I finally said, ‘I can sell real estate anywhere. I’m going home!’ ” she said with a laugh.
The Dawgs averaged 3,136 fans their first season. That increased to 3,360 the following campaign and hit 3,498 in Year 3. Remarkably, even when losing marquee games during a playoff push, that average went up again in 2019-20, to 3,522.
Although Shively Curren has two season tickets, one of those seats is often empty. She buys the extra one to show her support — something she’s doing again in a different way.
“The boys’ motto is ‘Our City is the Star City,’ ” Shively Curren said. “We just need to rally around them and show them that we stand with them.”
The players have gone home now, given an extra week of pay and some travel assistance from ownership to be with their families and get a jump on their offseason jobs.
The team continues to assess the damage and square up accounts.
The coronavirus effect could stretch into next season, depending on when sports can resume. The NHL schedule trips all the pro-hockey dominoes, and like most everything right now, that league is in limbo. It’s foreign and frightening.
But let’s try to remember some of the small but powerful gestures folks are making to support our community, whether it’s a sports team or a corner store or a pizza place.
This benevolent spirit is a reason to have faith — and keep it.