WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that Samantha Pearl has won ECHL Fan of the Year.
2019-20 was an emotional season for Samantha, as her mom, Darlene Cooke, passed away on October 23rd. Darlene was a Nailers season member and booster club member along with her husband Chris, and together, the two worked incredibly hard to support the team. Prior to Darlene's passing, she was visited by Nailers players Cam Brown and Yushiroh Hirano. In the game that followed on October 25th, the Nailers held a moment of silence in Darlene's memory, then everyone watched in awe, as Brown scored just 18 seconds into the contest, and Hirano capped off the 6-4 win by touching his heart and then pointing at Chris and Samantha.
"We are extremely proud of Samantha for winning this award," said Nailers Governor Don Rigby. "It was very special watching her and Chris this season, as they continued to give our team outstanding support, while carrying on in Darlene's memory."
Chris and Samantha continued their amazing support of the Nailers throughout the season, cheering on the team, treating all of the players and staff members like members of their family, and working to help the organization and the booster club with various activities.
"While many others in the competition deserved this win, I'm beyond grateful for winning Fan of the Year," Pearl said. "This is for my mom smiling from heaven, my dedicated stepdad, and all the supportive Nailer Nation voters that helped us along the way! Thank you!"
Fans were able to send nominations to the ECHL for the chance to win Fan of the Year, then the ECHL narrowed the field to 16 competitors for a bracket-style tournament. Fans from around the league then voted on each head-to-head match-up to determine a winner. Samantha defeated fans from Orlando, Toledo, and Newfoundland in the first three rounds, then staged a remarkable comeback to win the final over Allen.