REPORT: ECHL Tabs St. John’s as Latest Market

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According to David Salter, the former Director of Communications for the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL, there’s going to be an ECHL team coming to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador in the near future. Salter said that a source from outside the area was the one who told him that it will be happening. Salter also stated that the franchise will be affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens, while trying to use the IceCaps name.

Of course, this brings up a host of other questions. With the Canadiens going to this new St. John’s team, who would the Brampton Beast turn to in order to be an affiliate?? There are two options– one of which being the Toronto Maple Leafs– who have the Marlies feet away from their doorstep, why not have their ECHL team there rather than in Orlando?? Of course, Orlando runs a nice little ship there and the Leafs may like that a little better. The other option is the Ottawa Senators, who moved their AHL team to Belleville, which is two hours west of Brampton. Currently, the Senators are without an ECHL affiliate and it would make sense to keep the teams in Ontario if you’re going to go that route.

Another question is what to do with travel. Even with the Northeast expansion, St. John’s would be 1,200 miles away from their nearest rival in Portland, which is something I wrote about a month ago when this idea first started to get legs. According to Salter, Dean MacDonald is in fact the man who will own the team, so you can bet that he or his group will have to find a way to off-set costs for teams to travel there. It would most likey follow the Alaska Aces method of having three-game weekend sets up there and then they tour around the Northeast and what-have-you.

While nothing has been set in stone, the fact that sources outside of the local area are reporting it should give it plenty of legs to make it happen. The domino effect could be something that could become very interesting down the line, especially for teams who are already involved with ECHL franchises and the possibility for flipping affiliations.

The Need for More Rivalry Trophies in Hockey

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Photo via Orlando Solar Bears

You want to really get people into a rivalry?? If you’re the NHL, you put those rivalries on Wednesday nights because that’s when people are watching hockey and that’s when every Wednesday game is a potential rivalry even when it’s not. Yet, shockingly, it can get stale and people will grow tired of it. So– how to do you spice up a rivalry??

Give it a trophy. Give it some meaning for teams meeting over and over again.

That’s why when I see something about the Wawa Sunshine Cup, I’m intrigued and wonder why more minor league teams don’t do that. The Wawa Sunshine Cup is a trophy that battled between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and Florida Everblades with the team who has the most standing points earned in head-to-head match-ups being the victor of it and maybe getting a sweet Built-To-Order hoagies with it. It gives some pride and meaning to playing a team around 14 times a season and make it worthwhile rather than stale. You have to wonder when they’ll include the Jacksonville IceMen to their party, but whatever.

The point is that, especially in minor league hockey where teams are facing off against each other a lot and with my whole plan of regional leagues under a big league umbrella, maybe to make things not get so dull– throw some kind of arbitrary trophy in there to make things a little more fresh in the world of hockey. I doubt this would work on the NHL level because that’s all too corporate; but the minor leagues are ripe for this stuff.

In the NCAA, hockey has plenty of rivalry trophies– like the North Star College Cup between the Minnesota D1 schools, the Holy War on Ice of Notre Dame and Boston College for the Smith-Kelley Memorial Trophy, the Battle for the Gold Pan between Denver and Colorado College, and the Beanpot, which combines the Boston colleges. Of course, college sports have a lot of tradition with gimmick trophies– as we’ve seen in the football side of things with their rivalry trophies.

(Shockingly, I’m a fan of the Crabpot Tournament because of my bias, but what can you do??)

Yet in this new era of minor league hockey where some people drone on and on about seeing the same teams over and again– why not do something like the Wawa Sunshine Cup?? Hell, the California teams in the AHL could do a lot more than not play the same amount of games as everyone else in the league and get some sponsorship for a trophy. The Texas AHL teams, all the teams cropping up in the Northeast in the ECHL could have something, the teams in the Midwest AHL or ECHL– the sky is the limit, so long as you can sell it to the sponsors.

Granted, the game today is really more about in-arena entertainment as it is the game itself, this could be a nice cross-section of branding for the company sponsoring the rivalry trophy and actually will get people into a match-up they’ve seen for the ninth time in the season. It doesn’t take much to make something like this happen, especially when it comes to bringing people into the hockey domain and really promote the brand they are trying to push. Sure, they may have the audience in the stands already– but it will also make them brand loyal when they have a choice of things. I’m sure people will hit up the Wawa more often than other convenience stores because it’s Wawa and it’s awesome, but more importantly– because they support Solar Bears or Everblades hockey. That’s the kind of advertising that’s easy and may have a lasting affect on people’s purchasing choices.