The Milwaukee Hogs were one of the teams added to the CHL this season. The team has done a fine job bonding with the local community, developing a number of creative promotions with local businesses to give the fans “something that’s uniquely Milwaukee,” as GM Carlton Neilson put it. They’ve had the Brewers’ Racing Sausages wander the concourses. They’ve raffled off a Harley-Davidson motorcycle (only fitting, as they play at Harley-Davidson Arena). They’ve held nights to represent virtually every ethnic group in the area. And on Tuesday Night, they celebrated Wisconsin’s status as “America’s Dairyland” by holding Cheese Night.
“Cheese, sausage, and beer are the major Wisconsin food groups,” said Neilson. “Cheese Night is a tribute to one of the foods that makes Milwaukee great.”
The event was sponsored by the Mars Cheese Castle, a cheese emporium located in nearby Kenosha. As fans entered the arena, they received Wisconsin “cheesehead” hats with the Hogs logo on the back. “A little cliche, maybe, but no Cheese Night would be complete without them,” Neilson said.
During breaks in the action, the Hog Heaven Hype Squad (Milwaukee’s in-game entertainment crew) hosted a variety of exciting cheese-themed games. One of the most popular was “Guess the Cheese,” in which blindfolded fans were given a sample of one of the Castle’s many cheeses and challenged to identify it. (Winning fans received a T-shirt reading “I’m The Big Cheese” and a Mars Cheese Castle gift card.)
Between the first and second periods, there was a cheese-eating contest, in which 12 Hogs fans were challenged to eat as many cheese curds as they could in a 2-minute period. The winner was Jake Kovaleski, a factory worker from Kenosha, who downed a half-pound of the curds in that time. “I’m probably going to regret this tomorrow,” Kovaleski said, “but I feel good tonight!” He received a pair of tickets to a future Hogs game.
Between the second and third periods, the Hogs unveiled their piece de resistance: they laid out a giant maze on the ice, then had four fans in rat costumes enter at different corners of the maze. The goal was to get to the “cheese” at the middle, which was actually a stack of cheesehead hats filled with Hogs merchandise and Mars Cheese Castle gift cards. The first fan to reach the middle was Steve Morris, a home health-care worker from Waukesha. “I’m king of the cheese!” exclaimed Morris.
The celebration of cheese extended beyond the food itself. The team invited fans to submit entries in the Cheesiest Pun Contest. Several fans shared their best groaners on the big screen; afterward, everyone had a chance to cast their vote for the cheesiest of the puns. The winner, submitted by Marlene Graybeck of Brookfield, went as follows: “There was an explosion at a cheese factory in France. Nothing but de-brie everywhere!”
In addition to all of the cheese-tastic festivities, Milwaukee fans got to see the home team win big, 7-2 over the Utah Owls. D Steve Cargill scored a pair of goals, and narrowly missed completing the hat trick, pinging a shot off the post. “It’s a good thing that I didn’t [get the hat trick],” Cargill quipped. “If all the fans threw their cheeseheads on the ice, someone might have gotten hurt.”
All in all, the night was a hit, and Neilson said that the team would likely look to do it again in the future. In fact, only one person wasn’t happy about the promotion: coach Robbie Lear. “I’m lactose intolerant,” the coach moaned.