CHL Update: Ashcats Celebrate Playoffs With “World’s Smallest Parade”

This season has seen a remarkable turnaround for the Omaha Ashcats.  Last season, the Kansas City Smoke affiliate finished dead last in the West, thanks in large part to a late-season swoon that got so bad that superfan Karl Loesser (aka “Krazy Karl”) staged a “live-in,” during which he refused to leave the arena until the team won.

This year, thanks to an influx of young prospects, the Ashcats have been at or near the top of their division all season long.  They sent an impressive four players to the CHL All-Star Game, several of whom have since been promoted to the SHL.  The Omaha fans have largely stuck by the team in good times and bad, but the atmosphere has definitely been more festive now that the team is winning.

This week, the Ashcats completed their turnaround by clinching a playoff spot with a 3-2 win over the Utah Owls.  Naturally, the fans wanted to celebrate… and Krazy Karl was there to lead the way.

“No one lives and dies with this team quite like Krazy Karl,” said Ashcats GM Steve Galesko.  “This season has been a real thrill ride for him.”

In order to celebrate the Ashcats’ triumph, Loesser wanted to hold a parade in downtown Omaha.  He quickly realized this plan would be impractical.  “Permits, building floats, all that stuff… that’s not for me,” the superfan told reporters.

Instead, Krazy Karl talked to the Aschats management about a smaller-scale parade that could take place inside the arena.  On Saturday, the team staged what Loesser dubbed “The World’s Smallest Playoff Parade.”  As he put it: “You know the saying ‘Go big or go home?’  I decided to go small instead.”

The parade route consisted of a loop around the main concourse of the Ashcats’ arena, the Switching Yard.  Loesser naturally led the parade, wearing a drum major outfit and a sash with the words “#1 FAN” and blowing his trademark railroad whistle.

Behind him came a series of “floats” that rode on top of little red wagons.  The “floats” included cardboard cutouts of Omaha players, mannequins dressed in Ashcats uniforms, inflatable hockey goals, and a paper-mache rendition of the team’s logo, built by Krazy Karl himself.  “It’s not exactly true to life,” admitted Loesser, “but hey, it’s my first time with paper mache.”

In lieu of a marching band, the parade featured a group of elementary schoolers wearing Omaha jerseys and railroad engineer hats, playing songs on recorders, kazoos, and slide whistles.  “They sure were… enthusiastic,” said one parade-goer.

Galesko, coach Butch Slazenger, and several players also appeared in the parade.  In a normal parade, they might have ridden in the back of a convertible or on top of a bus.  In Krazy Karl’s version, they sat on lawn chairs on top of platform trucks pushed by members of the Cool Cats, the team’s fan club.  The players and staff threw plastic necklaces, candy, stress balls, and leftover promotional items to the fans lining the concourse.

“It was pretty cool,” said D Lowell Sharkey, who rode on one of the makeshift cars.  “I think the guy pushing me had had a few beers, and he had a hard time pushing in a straight line, but it worked out okay.”

Engineer Eddie, the Ashcats’ mascot, ran up and down the parade route high-fiving fans, signing autographs, and handing out trinkets.  At one point, Eddie hopped up on Sharkey’s platform and began wiggling his tail at passersby.  “I think Eddie might have had a few beers too,” said Sharkey.  “I don’t know why he didn’t bring me any.”

Loesser proclaimed the parade a “total and unqualified success.  This was a true fan’s celebration, and it just proves again that the fans here in Omaha are the best in hockey.  Krazy Karl out!”

“Overall, it was a really fun experience, and our fans loved it,” said Galesko.  “The credit goes to Krazy Karl, for dreaming this up and figuring out a way to see it through.  The only downside of it for me is that they put me right in front of the kids’ band, and all those recorders.  But I’m sure the headache will go away eventually.”

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CHL Update: Omaha Superfan Stages Live-In For A Win

When the Omaha Ashcats switched parent clubs this offseason from the Seattle Sailors to the expansion Kansas City Smoke, most fans assumed that the team would take a step back in the standings.  For the first month of the season, the Ashcats defied expectations, posting a respectable 11-8-0 record.  Since then, though, gravity has reasserted itself: the team has gone 6-24-2 to sink into the Western division basement.

By and large, the fan base has accepted this decline with a shrug, as attendance in Omaha has remained strong all season.  One diehard Ashcats fan, however, is distressed by his team’s slide – and is going to great lengths to bring his team some good luck.

43-year-old Karl Loesser, known as “Krazy Karl” to the Omaha faithful, has proclaimed himself “the Ashcats’ biggest fan.”  He is a well-known and very vocal presence at the Switching Yard.  He comes to games with a railroad whistle, which he blows to fire up the crowd, and a seemingly endless supply of posters and banners – “I’ve got one for everyone on the team,” he told reporters.

“If someone claims they’re an Ashcats fan but they’ve never heard of Krazy Karl,” said Omaha GM Steve Galesko, “then they’re not really a fan.”

When the Ashcats went on a lengthy losing streak earlier this season, Krazy Karl made an “offering to the hockey gods” by burning a T-shirt with the logo of that night’s opponent in front of the arena.  But when the team hit the skids again after the trading deadline, he suspected that stronger measures might be needed.

As a result, Krazy Karl is now living inside the arena… and vows to keep doing so until the Ashcats win again.

“I’m offering myself up to the hockey gods this time,” Loesser said this week.  “I don’t know what we did to piss them off, but it must have been huge.”

Krazy Karl approached Galesko to request permission to stay in the arena, and the GM was hesitant at first.  “I love Krazy Karl, don’t get me wrong,” said Galesko, “but our security staff wasn’t wild about having a guy wandering around the arena in the middle of the night.”

But the GM worked out an arrangement with his superfan.  Loesser spends the nights on a couch in the Ashcats’ locker room and uses the team showers in the mornings.  He eats breakfasts and some lunches with team employees; during games, he has unlimited access to the concessions stands.  For exercise and to pass the time, he walks laps around the concourse.

“It’s not a bad life, to be honest,” said Krazy Karl.  “But I want the team to win so I can go home!”

Thus far, the Ashcats have not fulfilled his hopes.  On Friday, they blew a late lead against Colorado Springs and fell 3-2 for their ninth straight loss.  But Krazy Karl remains optimistic.  “The hockey gods will recognize my sacrifice and reward us with a win soon,” he said.  “It’s meant to be.”