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Mallard fans `blind' with team success

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Todd Mizener

`Piling on' may be a football term, but it described a happy mob of Mallards after they won the Colonial Cup last spring.

MOLINE -- When it comes to the Quad City Mallards, the Blind is quite an eye-opener.

Through 2 1/2 seasons, the Quad-Cities' minor-league hockey club has drawn more than 625,000 fans. To a small percentage of season-ticket holders who watch from what is dubbed the ``Duck Blind,'' the game truly becomes something special.

Their legs get a workout, as they choose to stand the entire game. Their vocal chords are spent equally on cheer for their Mallards and bellowing at the opposition. Hand calluses are required, given the hard high-fives, and plenty of them, after Mallard scores.

``We don't give up. We stay until the end,'' says Steve Leydens of Moline, a Duck Blind ringleader.

``When they call out the three stars of the game, that's when we leave,'' Keith Kincaid of Colona said of the postgame honors.

``Yeah, we're here 'til the fat lady sings,'' added Brian Briggs of Bettendorf.

When told the latter was a Quad City Thunder staple, Briggs hoisted a Wednesday-night dollar brew and amended, ``Then we stay until the fat guy sings.''

With packed house after packed house singing out after home-team goals, Mallard home games have become an unbelievable atmosphere.

``It's a good time, a big party,'' said Steve Sabbe of Moline, ``and I'm glad to be a part of it.''

Actually, Sabbe is a newcomer to what has become old hat. He was lured into the ``Blind'' around Christmastime. Now they've reeled him in.

``I'm hooked,'' said Mr. Sabbe. ``I'll be at every home game from now on, definitely.''

He's learning what Duck Blind long-timers have enjoyed early and often.

``The action on the glass is a lot better here,'' Brian Briggs of Bettendorf said of the Duck Blind location -- right behind the goalie at the west end of The Mark of the Quad Cities. ``You hear and feel the hits.''

To place an enjoyment value on the Duck Blind, all you need to do is look to Terry ``Ice Man'' Edwards of Barstow. He's one of the Zamboni drivers at Mallard games.

Earlier this month, Mr. Edwards asked for a day off. He spent it back at The Mark -- to watch the Mallards from the Duck Blind.

``These guys, these fans, are the best,'' said Mr. Edwards. ``I'm having a good time.''

That comes with the territory, says Mr. Leydens, whose highlight comes in the second period when it's time for him to lead the harassment of the opponent's goalie.

And the best thing, Mr. Leydens adds, is that the Mallards have no territorial boundaries.

``The Mallards are the one thing that has brought the Quad-Cities together,'' he said. ``No matter where you work or live, everyone has something to talk about and something to do.''

-- By Marc Nesseler (January 22, 1998)

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