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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bloomington Prairie Thunder local connections

It is two months to go till they drop the puck. The site, for the Chicago Wolves, will be the Carver Arena in Peoria, Illinois, home to the Peoria Rivermen. So many things will change between now and October 7th. However here are a few things we now know. First, several ECHL Rivermen players are now wearing sweaters bearing the logo of the Bloomington Prairie Thunder. I took an unofficial look at the US Cellular Arena in downtown Bloomington. It is a place that my wife described as a bride, waiting to be raped by the horde of fans from Rockford and the Quad Cities.

The smell of a new arena… Contrast that, if you will, with the dingy smoke that is the home of the Toledo Storm, the Toledo Sports Arena. I doubt the US Cellular Arena has had a single event yet. It smells of plastic, it has carpets without beer stains or cigarette burns and the blank canvas that lies under every sheet of ice. It is a far cry from the Sports Arena. Yum… can you taste the blood, I mean love?

Give me the Sports Arena, where fans lean over the glass and scream at the players. Where they get ejected for interfering with play, where they drown out the singer of the national anthem screaming curses at the Canadian players. It may not be love, but it is hockey.

We found a wonderful picture taken at the Sports Arena during the Kelly Cup playoffs. The Gwinnett Gladiators had just won the game and were preparing to congratulate the Storm. In the stands you see the fans giving one finger salutes to the Gladiators.

I’ll give the Prairie Thunder this, so far I’ve noticed a great marketing campaign from the team. Although I haven’t been personally contacted, I see ads in the local phone book, on radio and in the visitors guides. I’m impressed by their effort to reconnect with the base of ECHL fans that had followed the Rivermen. Derek Booth was the first clear sign of that effort. Booth was a captain of the Rivermen four years ago, and has coached in the SPHL at Fayetteville, bringing them to the post season twice.

The first player Booth brought aboard was former Rivermen Trevor Baker. Baker will fill a position as player/coach in the position of forward.

Over at the Chicago Hounds they must believe in stealth marketing. I’m definitely a season ticket holder of the Chicago Wolves, but also purchase enough to be considered a low end STH of the Rockford Ice Hogs and the Milwaukee Admirals. I’d think I might be considered in their target demographic? Well, nothing on the horizon so far. Am I not reading the right newspapers or listening to the right radio stations or driving on the right highway? (I only pass by the Sears Center twice a week each way).

What’s wrong with me?

Thank god for Google news alerts.

The first player signed by the Hounds was Greg Koehler. He’s got pretty good stats in the UHL and has been in professional hockey for about ten years. But unlike Baker, I just don’t see a local connection. The same couldn’t be said for the head coach of the Hounds. Greg Puhalski wanted to go to Chicago, leaving a successful coaching position with the Fort Wayne, Indiana Komets organization. I think Puhalski intends to make this area his home for a long time to come. And welcome to you Greg!

1 comment:

ontherail said...

Oh Toledo, all other ice arenas pale compared to her! The old girl may be aging, have rats the size of cats but she has the "smell" and feel of years of great hockey tradition. Not your woosie NHL hockey but the raw show me what ya got in your face, minor league brand.

We have one more year until they tear down this gem. To all those that love minor league hockey, "Slap Shot" and the smell and feel of old time hockey. Take the time to see her before she is replaced with the new and improved. You will not regret this road trip.