There is more to the Blue Crew than meets the eye

They are there to welcome us as we enter Philips Arena, they greet us in the concourse, we see them on ice during time outs and fans are sent into a screaming frenzy at the thought of getting free Thrashers stuff from them during games. They are the ladies that make up the Atlanta Thrashers Blue Crew.

Donni Frazier is the coordinator for both the Blue Crew and the Hawks A-Town Dancers, and recently she invited me to spend some time with her and the Crew during one of their practice sessions at The Cooler in Alpharetta.

Donni grew up in Panama City, Florida and attended the University of Florida, graduating with a degree in telecommunications. Frazier worked for the athletic department at the University of Florida between 1996-2004. Then she was hired on by the A.S., L.L.C. and has been here ever since.

While we observed the proceedings from the bench, Donni explained to me just what they look for from a member of the Blue Crew when candidates come to audition for spots on the squad. They must have, “personality and charisma”, adding that they must also possess, “Good interactive skills, is smart as well as beautiful”.

Donni Frazier addresses the Blue Crew prior to practice

Donni Frazier addresses Blue Crew candidates prior to auditions (Scott Cunningham)

Last June they finished up the audition for this coming season’s version on the Blue Crew and she described what the ladies went through to work their way onto the squad.

“It’s a week long process”, she said. “After registration and orientation, we then evaluate who can skate. They have boot camp that they go through, interviews, which they are all nervous about. Also this year they had a uniform try-on session where we actually viewed how they looked in their uniforms as well as a swimsuit portion of the auditions”.

Continuing, “They also go over certain drills like how they move the net, pick up pucks, pick up hats and they go through relays…and we do that all on the last day of auditions”.

“Then the girls do what we call an ‘improv session’ where we give them scenarios of things that could happen during a game and they have to act it out. That way we can see how they would react to certain things. So each contestant pulls a scenario out of a hat and see how they respond to it, we get to see their personalities, how they would handle themselves, and how they would go about the situation”.

Donni explained they are one of the faces of the franchise so, “we have to know if they knock over someone’s drink…what are you going to do, how are they going to fix that?”

At the end of auditions, 20 of the 40 ladies who auditioned made it onto the roster of the 2010-11 Atlanta Thrashers Blue Crew. Among those are on-ice captain Lissa and interactive captains Jami, Candace and Terri. Their leadership roles are to help make sure everyone is where they need to be and things run as they should.

“As captains, we just make sure that the game runs smoothly”, Candace told me while taking a break. “We make sure everyone knows where to be and what to do. Kind of make everything ’flow’”.

Jami explains, “Captains stay on top of the game, making sure that the girls get to their promotions on time and really help to make sure the fans have a good time at the game and feel welcome while they are there”.

Captains get to the arena before everyone else, help Donni get things ready for the game and get the towels and tee shirts to all the girls to distribute to the crowd.

Philips Arena has become like a home for Jami, who will be entering her fifth season as a meber of the Blue Crew (Scott Cunningham)

Philips Arena has become like a home for Jami, who will be entering her fifth season as a member of the Blue Crew (Scott Cunningham)

Now that the Blue Crew roster is set, they are preparing for the upcoming season. And while I was with them, the veteran members of the Crew were showing the newer ones how to perform “ice maintenance drills”…the activity during time-outs where they clean the surface around the goals as well as remove snow from around the boards. Jami, Candace and Kirstie were performing the drill while Lissa was describing the activity to those who stood along the boards.

Timing is key here… something that Jami underscores by telling me that if they haven’t completed their duties during the allotted time, there could be consequences to face.

“It’s extremely important to be on time and on your game”, she explained. “There are three girls on each side of the ice and you have to make sure you do your job so that everyone else can do theirs. And you only have 90 seconds because when that red light goes off and the girls are still out there, there’s the possibility the team could get fined by the league…and that’s not good”.

Most of the time a minute and a half is more than enough, but it can get a tad complicated when there are certain obstacles or issues that come about during their time on the ice. But the ladies simply have to work through it.

“During that 90 seconds you have players that sitting along the boards just talking to their teammates or a goalie that just doesn’t like to move”, Jami said adding, “…but we’ve got a job to do and so we just have to work around them or yell at them to move. And sometimes there’s fights but the light still goes off and that 90 seconds starts then so we have to go, even if that means we can only do half of the pattern or just around the goal. It’s very important that area is nice and clean”.

Candace also pointed out that sometimes goalie superstitions and habits could also cause a delay saying, “There are some who are very superstitious and they do not want to leave their crease. So you’ll politely ask them to move, but they really want to stay there. So you just work around them”.

“There is one goalie”, Candace continued. “I can’t remember which one it was, but he wanted us to do things in a different pattern than what we do. He wanted us to go around the boards first, then do his crease because he’s very superstitious and wanted us to do it that particular way”.

Jami, who will be entering into her fifth year as a Blue Crew member, is a self-described “military brat” who was born into an Air Force Family while her father was stationed overseas. “I was born in Germany, live all over but we moved to Texas and then to Georgia where I’ve been for 11 years now…which is the longest I’ve lived anywhere”.

She was a cheerleader at Kennesaw State University where she studied Exercise and Health Science, something she uses in her daily life. “I use that now working with a special needs family…a young lady who I’m extremely close to and is very dear to my heart. I help her on a daily basis as a life coach as well as with fitness nutrition and regimens we do weekly and monthly”.

There are some goalies who aren't cooperative when Candace performs ice maintenance duties. Obviously Evgeni Nabokov is not one of them (Scott Cunningham)

Some goalies are reluctant to move away from their goal when Candace performs ice maintenance duties. Obviously Evgeni Nabokov is not one of them (Scott Cunningham)

Jami added that she was just accepted into a radiology program in Hawkinsville, Georgia, “So I’m gonna be juggling my time between south Georgia and Atlanta”.

Candace grew up in McDonough, Georgia and now lives in Atlanta. And like Jami, she also will be entering into her fifth campaign with the Crew.

“I tried out for the Atlanta Hawks dance team five years ago and Donni after tryouts told me she was getting a team together for hockey, the Thrashers. I’ve always been a huge hockey fan so…five years, I’m still here”.

Candace said she really did not have that much ice skating experience when she tried out, but once on the team she picked it up really fast.

“Well, I’ve always been a roller blader, never really ice skated…it’s kinda similar, but just slippery. So it wasn’t hard at all for me to pick up ice skating”.

Candace is still in school, going to Georgia Perimeter College to become a dental hygienist. She works as an assistant hygienist at this time. Between working, going to school and the Blue Crew, Candace is also wedding planning. She and her fiancé will be wed in May of 2011.

Sorry guys…

While both ladies tell me working with the Crew is a lot of fun, the fact is that they have a lot that keeps them busy during game days…and there isn’t a lot of down time for Blue Crew members working that night.

“Before the game there is a meeting and pretty much all of the game operations people get together to make sure everyone is on the same page”, Jami explained. “After the meeting the captains and Donni will go over what will be happening during each time out, between periods, pre-game and post-game. And we all have duties after the game as well”.

“Yeah, we’re constantly going, going, going”, Candace added with a laugh and pumping her fists like a train locomotive.

One thing these ladies do is have a really good time together, whether at practice or at games. And they seem to have a certain closeness in their ranks. Donni calls the ladies she works with “a close knit” family as the ladies work hard for one another and the team. “All the girls are wonderful and are motivated to be there”.

Jami agrees saying, “They are an amazing group of girls and I come back every year. And this year I’m not even going to be in Atlanta. It’s a very special team and I take a lot of pride in representing Atlanta and the Atlanta Spirit”.

Blue Crew members like Kristin have been hard at work making Thrashers games a fun experience for fans of all ages (Scott Cunningham)

Blue Crew members like Kristin are always hard at work making Thrashers games a fun experience for fans of all ages (Scott Cunningham)

As for what Jami likes most about being on this squad she quickly spoke about the population of Thrasherville that she loves being with most, the younger fans.

“I really love kids, so I always like to talk to and meet new kids every game, especially the little girls who are always running up and wanting to get their pictures taken and getting stuff signed”.

“And I like to catch up with those fans who have been coming to games throughout the years. Philips Arena really has become like a home to me because of all the fans who I’ve gotten to know over the years”.

Then I asked Candace what was most fun about being a Blue Crew member.

“What is not fun about being a Blue Crew member?” she responded with a playful ‘well, duh’ tone. “You get to watch hockey, the girls are great. It’s just a blast. I love the fans, I love interacting with them, that’s my favorite part”.

As far as which part of the game she works, on the ice or in the stands, Candace says she really has no preference…it’s all fun. “I do both, though last year I was mostly on the ice. It depends on the game and who’s working that night”.

One other thing that Donni and the Crew are excited about this season is the advent of the Jr. Blue Crew. It will be for young girls who would like to assist the ladies of the Atlanta Thrashers Blue Crew during intermissions, promotions and crowd interaction. The program is designed to promote self-esteem and promote long-lasting friendships…and no ice skating experience is necessary.

“The Jr. Blue Crew will be for ages 7 to 12”, Donni informed me. “They’ll be able to come out and spend time with the Blue Crew, be at practice, help during intermission of games, walk around the concourse with the girls…it should be really fun”.

This is something that Jami is jazzed about as well. “I’ve actually gotten to talk to a few of the girls that are really excited about it. That is something new that I’m really looking forward to this next year because this program is growing and adding the Jr. Blue Crew is very exciting”.

For those interested in learning more about the Jr. Blue Crew, here’s a link to their website with all of the information.

104 comments Add your comment

Mikey

August 23rd, 2010
6:21 pm

Nice. Very nice.

The ones I have spoken to seem to really be enjoying what they are doing. Adds to the overall atmosphere too.

As for looks, I’d rank them right up there with the Hurricanes ladies.

Nice. Very nice.

Brendan

August 23rd, 2010
6:30 pm

Love the Blue Crew. But, I never really thought cheerleaders were meant for hockey. I’ve been wrong before!!! Though, one wonders if they could be slightly more clothed. On second thought, why worry about it?

Changing directions entirely, anyone ELSE hear Leo Mazzone on the 680TheFan morning show? They were talking about how Pittsburgh, (The Pirates,) had just clinched their 18th consecutive losing season. And one of the other two, either Rude or Laurentino, commented, “Imagine being a fan of that team? How do they sell tickets? What do they possibly tell their fanbase?” Leo Mazzone countered, “You just say that the team is ‘moving in the right direction.’” I nearly lost it on I-285, laughing about that comment.

Brendan

August 23rd, 2010
6:31 pm

So, did Bryan Little sacrifice any of his UFA eligibility by signing this contract?

Rawhide

August 23rd, 2010
6:44 pm

Brendan – That Leo Mazzone quote is hysterical!!

Oh, and Little will be an RFA in 2013, if that answers your question.

Badger Bob

August 23rd, 2010
6:50 pm

Brendan, Litts contract would have needed to be 5 or more years to sacrifice UFA-eligible years. I love him, but wouldn’t haver wanted to try to tie him up that long. For him and Bergie, it’s the next contract that may be most telling. We aren’t Chicago or Washington, tying up our RFAs for a decade. On the other hand, Litts isn ‘t Ovechkin, Kane or Toews.

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
7:06 pm

I like the Little signing. Now that the signing is out of the way. I look forward to much better production.

Rawhide nice piece, sound like there is a little more than cleaning off the ice for the blue crew.

Rhythmpenguin

August 23rd, 2010
8:03 pm

I had no idea that the Blue Crew did so much and worked so hard. Thanks Rawhide. =)

World Be Free

August 23rd, 2010
8:06 pm

The crew does a nice job, they seem to spent alotta time with the kids in any section I have sat in. Nice piece Bill.

Back to the cap, does anyone have a handle where we are at with the Little signing? Bergie will be in the same region or so dollar wise. I just want to see how much we have commited as we get close to my internal cap number, $50M.

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
8:28 pm

according to cap we have payroll of 48.4 with salary cap at 59 and change. Thus they will have to go over 50 to add another scorer in ufa or face a trade. this includes the buyour cap hit of Brashear

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
8:29 pm

rob

August 23rd, 2010
8:36 pm

BOOOO! I hope they at least cloth the Jr group appropriately to show them they actually can be something more than just skin. Promote self esteem? They skate around the rink with their breasts practically jumping out and if they bend over to get the nets on the pole, well. There is a time and a place for this……the beach on summer vacation where everyone else is also dressed so. I am not opposed to beauty, just promoting it this way to children who think it is appropriate to dress like them when they are only kids. As a father who has small children and who has to answer questions about “the women in their underwear on the ice” I find it well, less then family friendly. I have no problem having a group of people there to help promote the game, help the fans, and have a good time…..just have them put some clothes on. To put it in another light, how many people who think it is perfectly alright would feel the same way about guys out there in just speedos during intermission and posing for pictures with the ladies? Yeah, no way in HE double hockey sticks! I am sure I will go down in Flames for this post, but if you’re going to actually write an article trying to promote them to us…. LMAO

I know it’s almost the end of August but what’s next? Can training camp just open up already? Kovalsux go to the KHL or sign so the waiting pack can tear the salary dump away from the Devils, or something else? Drag Bergfors back to the ATL and sit him at a table until he signs!!!! Dog days of summer indeed.

Tiger

August 23rd, 2010
8:43 pm

SERIOUSLY??????????????????

Sage of Bluesland

August 23rd, 2010
8:53 pm

“…We’re moving in the right direction…”

That is a great quote…It’s worth another “Five-Year Plan” in these parts…

kracker

August 23rd, 2010
10:00 pm

twitter tid bit….

dankamal Sporting News’ hockey writer Craig Custance has confirmed with Rick Dudley the Thrashers have “touched base” with UFA forward Lee Stempniak.

ooooooo-k

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
10:07 pm

Enter your comments here

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
10:08 pm

OOPS
Sweet that is great to here. thanks Kracker for the good news, will keep fingers crossed.

SomaAtl95

August 23rd, 2010
10:14 pm

MSNBC had a long standing slideshow with the “Hottest Ice Girls” in the NHL. Our Blue Crew had to be the hottest of all of them (and whomever did it must love the Islander Girls for some reason) and they have always been really nice and personable every time myself on anyone in my group of friends has talked to them. Puritanical views about their clothing aside (so I am not sounding like a scumbag) it takes a lot to do all they do, put up with countless douchebags hitting on them, and stay warm with exposed skin in a cold arena. Those of you may say that they need to go or put more clothes on have never looked at just how risque football cheerleaders are – if the Blue Crew were to do the same “Stripper Routine” I see NFL Cheerleaders do than be upset about them – otherwise they serve a purpose and they are part of our Thrashers.
For those wanting to get more acquainted: http://thrashersbluecrew.com/photos.html

Jack

August 23rd, 2010
10:19 pm

Dallas Stars ice girls do a great job as well.

Dwayne

August 23rd, 2010
10:23 pm

I like their outfits, I’d love to see a boob every now and then, and I aint talking about Sage.

Hokie P. Clisters

August 23rd, 2010
11:06 pm

My friend, Elrod has expressed his concern that one of these fine young ladies could get a skate tangled up in that sinister trapezoid causing an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction to occur.

I have my doubts about Elrod’s level of concern on this matter……….

Brendan

August 23rd, 2010
11:26 pm

I bet the goalie they were talking about was Marty Brodeur. He seems like a prime candidate for giving the Blue Crew girls specific instructions about how go about their business.

And after the game, he requested some peanuts. Oh, not the ones right up front. The ones at the far end of the bowl, that required her to lean in, nice-n-far to grab. “Get a nice view, Marty?”

Hockey Biltong

August 23rd, 2010
11:47 pm

ay caramba……

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
5:48 am

Jack-thanks for the cap info. Looks for sure that we will go over the $50M threshold.
Dwayne-no need to worry about ever seeing Sage unless he comes out of the basement.
rob-these are the dog days, that’s for sure. You wonder what Dudley has in mind?

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
5:52 am

Sheldon Souray trade rumors-
Why would any team pay this old, oft-injured guy so much money? Rumors have had him being traded all summer, though I do not see any team taking Souray off the Oilers’ hands unless there’s a high pick and/or prospect tossed in to make it worthy. He’s got an “anchor” contract.

kracker

August 24th, 2010
7:18 am

Sounded like an Eklund rumor…but, no, the Thrashers are not mentioned on his Souray blog. He has it Caps, Sharks, Ducks, Sens and Isles, fwiw

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
7:28 am

kracker-seems like Souray’s name has been tossed around all summer. I do not see him coming here, our defense is set. I am just amazed at how many times Souray’s name has come up, considering his injury history and bloated contract. It may be more a factor of the Canadian media looking for something to talk about. The Canucks get bored easily.

Hockey Biltong

August 24th, 2010
7:41 am

like the fact that Dudley spoke with Stemps agent…he is hot on the trail…

jimbo

August 24th, 2010
8:16 am

Nice story about the Blue Crew. Do any of them have a potential 25 goal capability?

MashaPlayer7

August 24th, 2010
8:19 am

Oh Rawhide, you have such a tough, tough job. I see the quality of your writing (e.g. use of tense, grammar) suffered a bit on this blog posting. I can only imagine why :)

By the way, as a male fan, I don’t mind the outfits, but as a father, I do have a problem with the Jr. “self-esteem” program in that I do think it sends the wrong message to those young girls.

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
8:29 am

Biltong, getting ready for the season to begin!

glovesave29

August 24th, 2010
8:30 am

Brendan…sad part is, according to Forbes, that the Pirates have reported a profit the last few seasons to the tune of $30M over the last few years.

Sorry Bill…for the first time, I saw the title of your piece, read one paragraph and moved on to the comments at the bottom about the sport. It is just not possible for me to care any less about the Blue Crew. Not really into women who wear a “goalie mask” of makeup on their faces. How this sport survived for 100 years without them to clean the snow away from the crease is beyond me.

Duds talking to Stempniak’s agent – THAT interests me!

Sage's Mama

August 24th, 2010
8:45 am

Bill, can you get one of the girls to visit my son in the basement. I’ll keep him chained to the computer. There is yellow line on the floor, make sure she doesn’t step inside that yellow line.

Joe Friday

August 24th, 2010
9:13 am

No question to the girls about the intent to blow issue? Nice job, Rawhide!

Seriously though, no cheerleaders in hockey. It really dumbs down the game. I don’t mind the girls going out to clean up the ice as they’re necessary, but put some clothes on them. Attract people to the games by putting a winning product on the ice, not being the Cheetah West.

Red Light

August 24th, 2010
9:36 am

Jack: The link takes you to the line that says $43,716,666. Where does the $48 million come from?

ChippersLoveChild

August 24th, 2010
9:37 am

You know it’s the off-season when….

R. Stroz

August 24th, 2010
9:41 am

Cheetah West

Is that the new name for Tiger Woods or Kayne West?

Red Light

August 24th, 2010
9:48 am

I see, the bonuses. Never mind.

Fiscally Responsible

August 24th, 2010
9:51 am

Cost-cutting measures for the Atlanta Spirit…issue garters to the Blue Crew and make them work on commission!

Alan R.

August 24th, 2010
10:00 am

Duds talking to Stempniak’s agent – THAT interests me!

Glovesave – Me too! Yeah, the Blue Crew is a group of beautiful women. I guess I’m just not interested in fluff – even in the middle of August. :P

Jack

August 24th, 2010
10:10 am

Red Light- ooops I added 4.7 million in bonusesby mistake. It show we have 20 mil in cap space. According to the cap breakdown we have 20 mil to spend which would be 39 mil of a cap hit currently

Zombie Steve

August 24th, 2010
10:40 am

A couple of these young ladies are pretty decent hockey players too! They skated in some summer clinics recently.

I kept getting called for “interference” in our scrimmages…. not sure why =D

Zoomo

August 24th, 2010
10:55 am

Dwayne

August 24th, 2010
11:21 am

Yes Hockey is a great sport, lots of excitment…blah, blah, blah. Lets keep up with the rest of world, nothing wrong with the blue crew or their attire. I have 3 daughters 4 grandsons and a granddaughter. They will be just fine regardless of whether or not cheerleaders are at any sporting event.

ChippersLoveChild

August 24th, 2010
11:53 am

Rawhide used this blog as a cheap excuse to go hang with the Blue Crew girls for a day ;)

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
11:57 am

Rawhide-any news on Bergfors and where we are at in negotiations?
Buffalo News speculated the Thrash may be interested in Tim Kennedy. He would have to come cheap, $600-700,000 at the most on a 2 way deal.

SomaAtl95

August 24th, 2010
11:57 am

The “casual” college aged fan does not go to the games to watch hockey, trust me I have been seated near/around them for several games in the past few years. They spend the first period talking about trying to hook up with a Blue Crew Member, The second period drinking liquid courage to ask, the third period getting shut down by one or many Blue Crew Members in the stands. These guys go because the tickets are cheap and they all like to think they can take home a member of the Blue Crew. You guys who swear up and down that Hockey doesn’t need cheerleaders remember that there are many people (especially north of the border) that swear up and down that Hockey doesn’t belong in the Southern US. It never hurts to try new things as long as you don’t base your entire product on it (like New Coke) or sink a lot of marketing money on it (like Crystal Pepsi) – These girls work their butts off to do a good job, get people pumped up, and they like watching the game. Better than a group of teamsters cleaning up the ice, right?
And yes its August, but don’t berate rawhide for writing about the Blue Crew. Like it or not they are part of the Thrashers – I’d understand getting on his case if we were in the season, but lighten up – its his blog and this was something he felt deserved recognition – plus it gives us all a new thread to read/post comments… if he stopped blogging for a month we’d have thousands of posts under his most recent blog.

Sara

August 24th, 2010
12:32 pm

Grumble … this is not my favorite topic. Look I’m sure these are nice girls but the marketing department treats them little better than whores. “Become One with a Blue Crew Member” skits where they lounge by a pool in a bikini??? Are you effin’ serious?!? This from the same organization that insisted on 7 pm game starts to be more “family friendly.”

In Detroit, the ice crew wear pants/jeans and a Wings jersey. Seems like the right uniform to me. Course, it’s also just an ice crew, not cheerleaders which do NOT belong in hockey. It’s annoying as crap to have the girls come around to give out goodies while the game is on and everyone starts jumping up and waving their arms.

GaVaHokie

August 24th, 2010
12:43 pm

WBF… I always get Tim Kennedy confused with that pig-nosed bastard Tyler Kennedy from Pittsburgh.

Rawhide

August 24th, 2010
1:01 pm

Become One with a Blue Crew Member” skits where they lounge by a pool in a bikini??? Are you effin’ serious?!? This from the same organization that insisted on 7 pm game starts to be more “family friendly.”

Sara – While I part ways with most who are “anti-Blue Crew” here, I will admit you raise a valid point. I remember those time-out features a couple years back and thought it might have pushed the envelope somewhat. You’ll notice they didn’t return last season.

However as a whole, I think the ladies add to the overall atmosphere of the game experience, they put a lot into what they are there to do and I appreciate them being there.

I kept getting called for “interference” in our scrimmages…. not sure why

Zombie Steve – I’m sure there are some forces of nature at work there..

Rawhide used this blog as a cheap excuse to go hang with the Blue Crew girls for a day

CLC – Yup…it’s tough being me sometimes :wink:

World Be Free

August 24th, 2010
1:05 pm

GaVa – Tim Kennedy not as tough as Tyler