The Cleveland Gladiators are one of the city’s most recent teams to enjoy postseason success. The team arrived in Cleveland in 2008 after a year in Las Vegas. The squad then went on to win its first playoff game in 10 years, making it to the Arena Football League’s National Conference Championship game, one win short of the Arena Bowl. The Gladiators finished second last year in the AFL’s East Division. Cleveland finished 8-10, while the Philadelphia Soul took home the division crown with a 15-3 record.
The Gladiators are closely linked to Case athletics. Two seasons ago, starting quarterback Kurt Rocco went down with an injury and Spartan alumnus Dan Whalen mounted a second half comeback against the Tulsa Talons. Whalen, an All-American and two-time NCAA Player of the Year finalist, now plays for the Orlando Predators.
For those who don’t know much Arena Football, here’s a quick crash course. The field is 85 feet wide and 50 yards long with two 8-yard deep end zones. The goal posts are half as wide as NFL goal posts and are five feet higher. The ball is identical. There are eight players from each team on the field at any time. A key rule for the sport’s high scoring affairs comes from the ability for a single wide receiver to get a running start downfield before the ball is snapped. It’s still more like the NFL than the Canadian Football League and there are still four downs and 10 yards for a first down. A player can only be out of bounds if he steps on the white boundary lines. Other than that, the foam walls that surround the field are in play.
The Gladiators play at the Quicken Loans Arena.
Season: March to July
Hockey maybe the one major sport in which Cleveland doesn’t have a professional team, but the Lake Erie Monsters do a pretty good job at making us forget that. Named after the legendary creature Bessie that resides deep within the waters north of Cleveland, the Monsters compete in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference’s North Division. The team was founded in 2007 and is an affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Monsters missed out on the postseason this past season but made it to the Calder Cup playoffs in 2010. The team finished in third in its division last year, going 37-29-10, earning 84 points, 2 points out of the highly contested playoff race.
The team plays its games at Quicken Loans Arena where it hosts some of the best promotions in the city. College ID Night gives students eight dollar tickets pretty much anywhere on the rink and is often paired with crowd favorite Dollar Beer Night. The team also has Dollar Dog Night, Rally Towel, and Bobblehead giveaways. With a 76 game season that almost rivals the NHL, there are plenty of opportunities to hit up downtown on a weeknight to watch hockey, if not to see the guys in mullet wigs follow the Zamboni around.
Season: October to April
Professional soccer finally touched down in Cleveland this past year as the AFC Cleveland Royals began their inaugural season in Parma, Ohio. AFC, which stands for A Fan’s Club, features two Spartans from the 2011 University Athletic Association championship team. All-American striker Vinny Bell and All-UAA goalie Ben Yabrow were two of the team’s first ever signees. Bell finished tied for the team lead with three goals while Yabrow started in goal. In the team’s first season competing in the National Premier Soccer League they saw plenty of success in the newly formed Midwestern Division.
Cleveland finished its 12 game season with four wins, seven draws, and just one loss; good enough for 19 points and third in the division. In addition to regular season success, the team was able to form several rivalries in its first season. The team formed the Rust Belt Derby, a derby between AFC Cleveland, Detroit City FC and FC Buffalo. Cleveland won the inaugural Rust Belt Derby finishing with the best head-to-head record between the three clubs. Cleveland lost in the Midwest-Great Lakes Conference Championship to the Madison 56ers 2-1.
The team plays at Byers Field in Parma, Ohio. They have also competed at Broadview Heights Highschool.
Tickets: $5 per game, $25 for a season pass
If the Browns and Gladiators aren’t appealing, one can always check out Cleveland’s professional women’s football team, the Fusion. The Fusion, who boast several Case alumni on its roster, play in Division 4 of the Women’s Football Alliance National Conference. The Fusion, whose divisional rivals are the Detroit Dark Angels and Pittsburgh Force, finished second with a record of 2-6 last season.
The team is coached by Case alumnus Erik Keister, who played football for the Spartans from 1998-2001 and was a coach from 2002-2003. Other Spartan alumni playing for the Fusion are quarterback Beth Andrasik ‘11, wide receivers Katie Green ‘11 and Christy Conlin ‘09, and lineman Marie Vibbert ‘98.
The Fusion play at Byers Field in Parma, Ohio.
Tickets: $5 for students, $10 general admission