Rail Yard Dawgs celebrate President’s Cup championship with parade in Roanoke

Dawgs fans flocked back to the Berglund Center to coronate the champions
Rail Yard Dawgs hold championship parade in Roanoke
Published: May. 6, 2023 at 7:22 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - There was only one coronation that hockey fans in the Star City cared about on Saturday.

The President’s Cup champion Rail Yard Dawgs paraded from downtown Roanoke to their home at the Berglund Center, where the celebration felt like it had been going since Tuesday night.

“This has been the most unbelievable few days,” said minority owner Chip Grubb. “This is a dream come true. When we talked about it way back in 2016, I think we all hoped, but it’s been reality. We’re the SPHL champions! It’s unbelievable! Life is good!”

In those seven years, local hockey fans have adopted the Dawgs with open arms, as a team that belongs to the city of Roanoke.

Few embody that relationship better than team broadcaster Mitch Stewart, a Lord Botetourt High School graduate who can’t help but beam with pride for his hometown team.

“It’s just been surreal,” said Stewart. “Having grown up here in Roanoke, and also getting to see kind of the minutiae behind the scenes, what goes into a week like this for all of these people, it’s so very well-deserved. I feel like my face is going to fall off from smiling as much as I have, but it’s just been spectacular.”

Games 3 and 4 of the Finals against Birmingham were both in the top five for all-time SPHL playoff game attendance.

Team President Mickey Gray says it’s a fan base that has no equal around the league.

“The support that this team has is unmatched,” said Gray. “There’s not a town in this league that gets the kind of support and coverage that we do. We’re just thrilled about it, and I think you saw during our ceremony, our guys love being here and these fans love the guys. I think it’s a really cool relationship and bond.”

“We’ve said it all year long, we’ve got the best fans in the league and I think this shows it completely,” added forward C.J. Stubbs.

“It’s unbelievable. Like I’ve been saying, it’s unmatched, it’s incomparable, there’s nowhere like it in the league,” said Mac Jansen, the Dawgs’ captain who scored the Cup-winning overtime goal in Game 4. “There’s not many places like it in hockey. The passion here is incredible and it’s only grown, it’s only getting stronger and I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

When talking hockey towns, a small city in southwest Virginia wouldn’t typically pop up on most puck lovers’ radars.

But these Dawgs, all but one of whom hail from out of state, have turned the Star City into a hockey city - and a home where they’ll always be remembered as champions.

“It means everything,” said defenseman Matt O’Dea. “This is something I’ve been working towards for about four years now, so to be able to complete it with the group that we had, it’s been nothing short of amazing.”

“I mean, after a parade like this, it’s tough to really grasp the reality of the whole situation,” said forward Josh Nenadal. “We’re just very grateful. We’re very grateful for the valley. We’re grateful for the fan support. This is our home, and we love to bring pride to it.”