Gears STREAKER- part 1


As the son of Walt, the Gears Zamboni driver, I can tell you the inside of this story, because I was involved and it was talk around the Civic Center staff as well as over our dinner table for years.

It was an ordinary Saginaw Gears home game on an ordinary evening in early 1975 and the fans were all going about their between periods rituals. Some went out into the concourse to puff on cigarettes, others found friends and squatted near their seats to talk, some walked the oval of the upper concourse to get a bit of exercise and some gathered in long lines at the concession stands. At the east end rink the door was propped open and the two orange-coated ushers had just dragged the big wooden target to the net on that end in preparation for "He Shoots, He Scores," the between periods game where fans use a puck and stick to try and make their own goal. Suddenly, through the crowd a chain reaction gasp began to roll. Out on the ice, a streaker was darting across the rink! The streaker was not actually nude, but rather was wearing a small white towel around his waist, a pair of old sneakers on his feet and a goalie's mask on his face to conceal his identity. Apparently having come onto the ice through the east end door that the "He Shoots, He Scores" ushers had left open, the streaker bolted toward center ice. Walt, the Zamboni driver was working with a shovel near the Gears bench and was apparently the only person who thought to try and catch the daring streaker. He headed toward the guy in a course set to intercept the fiend, but just as he reached for him the streaker dodged and Walt's normally sure-footed ice balance failed as he fell on his butt sliding helplessly across the ice. Up on the arena catwalk, the alert TV 5 camera man had just focused on the streaker and captured Walt's spill. In less than a heart beat the streaker ran through the Zamboni doors, up Zamboni alley and vanished as quickly as he had appeared. (See the streaker's route pictured above.)

There was a low rumble in the crowd as everyone in Wendler Arena could be heard to ask as a group "Did you see that?" The officers from the Saginaw Police Department, who were doing arena security, hustled to the back door adjacent to Zamboni alley, but all that they found was an apparently befuddled usher mumbling something about the guy going outside and a "get away car." Outside, in the truckwell at the rear of the building, there was nothing but the opposing team's bus and a few parked employee's cars. The streaker was apparently long gone. Up in the WSAM broadcast booth, the radio station was just coming out of the news break and Wally Shaver laughingly told the listeners about the streaker. Word had run like a shockwave through the outer concourse and scores of fans clamored back into the arena, too late to see what had happened. Up in the Civic Center office, the arena's lighting man burst into Manager Bill Fifer's office, "We just had a streaker down in the arena!" he bellowed. In an instant Fifer was thundering toward the arena as the lighting technician described the guy with the towel and the goalie's mask. Once in the arena where the air was still filled with a collective murmur, Fifer scanned the crowd with an eagle eye. If anyone had been seen with a goalie's mask he would have flung them through a window. Fifer, after having spent years being tormented by the "Phantom" of the Duluth arena, was fanatical about building security. No one on his staff had a true master key to the building but him and even the lowly ushers were a part of building security. Now this had happened... in HIS building! Fifer was so red with rage he appeared about to explode. After the game, everyone who was near that ice was questioned. Walt and his ice staff were interrogated and the Zamboni driver himself came under the heat of Fifer's eye. Walt explained that he had tried to catch the guy, but slipped and missed... Fifer was not satisfied. "I wanna know how the @#&% that &%#@ing idiot did this!" he roared repeatedly while pointing his two finger clinched cigarette at the sullen faces of each of his underlings. By the time that the eleven o'clock news came on. Several of the staff, including the building's assistant manager, Bob Lister, and Walt the Zamboni driver were still under the gun in Fifer's office when TV 5 aired the news footage of the streaker. The video tape clearly showed Walt dashing toward the streaker and then taking an apparently hard fall onto the ice. After viewing the news video, Fifer instantly cooled and turned to his trusted Zamboni driver, "I guess you did the best you could Walt." he chuckled forgivingly. Bill Fifer was wrong... Walt had done far more than run and fall, he, along with Lister the Civic Center's assistant manager, had planned and executed the entire prank and used the ice staff of ushers to pull it off. The entire stunt was an inside job that was the brain child of Fifer's assistant manager!
So- how'd they do it? Read on...

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