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.”