Monday, February 27, 2017

Can Allen Catch Colorado, A Look at the Remaining Schedule, Odd Stat of the Day, Shot on Goal Defined

The Allen Americans are on their all-star break, they don't play until Friday and the Colorado Eagles are on a 15 game winning streak. Time to look at the remaining schedule and how the playoffs are shaping up for the Americans.


- Allen has now played 80% of their schedule with just 15 games remaining. They have played the most games (57) in the Mountain Division and the other teams have between one (Colorado) and four (Alaska) games in hand. It wasn't long ago the Americans were leading their division, conference and the entire ECHL in points. With the Colorado win streak it is looking more likely the Americans will finish second in the division.


- There are still plenty of games to be played so if Allen plays well they could overtake the Eagles who have a five point lead. However, if the Americans play poorly they could be caught by Idaho who is only five points behind Allen. Anything can happen down the stretch but the most likely outcome looks like a second place finish for the Americans and home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.


- If you break the remaining schedule down in segments, the next two weeks will be critical. It is a light schedule with only four games in the next 18 days but they are all on the road. Three games  against Missouri and one against Indy. Missouri is in fifth place in the division and battling to make the playoffs but have been one of the hotter teams in the league going 8-2 in their last 10 games. Allen plays great on the road with a record of 18-9-1-1 and has won their last four road games. If Allen plans on catching Colorado they will need to get at least seven of the eight points available in these four road games and hope the Eagles cool off a bit. Colorado is at home for their next five games against South Carolina (3) and Alaska (2).


- Once Allen returns to the Allen Event Center (AEC) on St. Patrick's Day the schedule turns in their favor. Eight of the last 11 games are at home. The last 11 games are against three familiar foes. Allen will play the Tulsa four times, Wichita four times and Missouri three times. The Americans record against Tulsa this season is 7-3-0-0, against Missouri is 5-1-1-0 and against Wichita is 7-2-1-0. Remember, the away game against Wichita originally scheduled for March 8th was changed to April 9th. Many of the schedules printed early on still show the March 8th date.



OTHER COMMENTS


- Riley Gill has battled a couple of injuries this season but when he has been in the lineup he has been close to unbeatable. His record since early December is 14-2. He leads the ECHL in GAA (2.13), save percentage (.937) and shutouts (6). In case you were wondering the all time ECHL record for shutouts in a season is eight.


- How is this for the odd stat of the day that I just noticed while wading through all of the ECHL statistics. Allen has been in only three shootouts this season and lost two of them. However, they are ranked #1 in the ECHL by converting on .571 (4-7) percent of their attempts. Allen is ranked last, #27 when it comes to shootout goals allowed. Opponents have converted on .714 (5-7) percent of their attempts. How bad is the .714 shootout conversion percentage?  The next worse team to Allen in allowing shootout goals is Indy who has allowed .455 (5-11). The ECHL Average is .266.


- With their nine goal outburst against Tulsa on Friday the Americans are now averaging exactly 4.00 goals per game for the season. Only Toledo has a higher average at 4.24. The Americans raised their shooting percentage to 12.5% which is also second in the ECHL to Toledo's 12.8%.


- Allen has lost ground recently to Colorado but the Americans record over the last ten games (7-2-1-0) is as good as any of the other teams at the top of the league. Here are the top five teams in the ECHL in winning percentage. Interesting to note four of the five are in the Western Conference.

.750 - Toledo Walleye
.726 - Florida Everblades
.714 - Colorado Eagles
.664 - Fort Wayne Komets
.658 - Allen Americans



DID YOU KNOW: Shots on goal is a topic you hear discussed quite often in the press box, among fans, with coaches and certainly with goalies. For a long time I thought a shot on goal was simply any puck that would have gone in the net had the goalie not been there. Here is the official definition of a shot on goal with some clarifications:

"A shot on goal occurs when an attempt by an attacking player, with intent to score a goal, either results in a goal or would have entered the goal if not stopped by the goaltender."

- Any effort resulting in a goal is considered to be a shot on goal.
- Clearing or stray passes that end up on goal, but were not taken with an intent to score, are not considered shots.
- Attempts that hit only the crossbar or goalpost, or that are blocked by a forward or defenseman before reaching the net are not considered shots.
- Regardless of where the puck is shot, it is deemed a valid shot if it is a legitimate effort or attempt at scoring by the player taking the shot. For example, a bank shot from behind the net can be a shot on goal.
- Any penalty shot is considered a shot on goal regardless of whether the attacking player actually puts a shot on net.
- In a shootout, the winning team is credited with one additional shot on goal, though this shot is not credited to any player in particular.

Even with the definition and clarifications there is a lot of judgement involved in crediting shots on goal. Lively discussions will continue about over counting or under counting shots on goal.   

Sunday, February 26, 2017

What Does "No Comment" Really Mean, Mountain Division Tightens, Why Costello is the Best Ever

There has been so much excitement in Allen since it was announced on Thursday that Jack Gulati purchased the team. Jack made a great first impression with the standing room only crowd that attended the press conference and left no doubt that he will improve the off ice operation of the Americans and provide whatever is needed to make the on ice product successful.  His interest in seeking out ideas for improvement from all stakeholders, his commitment to be in Allen on a consistent basis and engage the fans was so refreshing.


- With the many positives there was one question that was asked that has had me wondering what is happening behind the scenes. The question was very straight forward, "Have you re-signed Martinson yet"? The response by both Jack Gulati and Steve Martinson caused me pause to say the least. I have listened to it a half a dozen times since Thursday and each time it makes me wonder what the future holds.


- If you saw the "open letter" I published on Thursday you undoubtedly noticed what I said about coach Martinson. It should be noted I wrote that open letter prior to knowing who the new owner would be and added the Jack Gulati information after I found out he had purchased the team. In case you didn't read the open letter here is a portion of what I said about Steve Martinson. " First among equals is signing Steve Martinson to a long term contract. His record as a coach and General Manager is unequaled with four championships in four years in Allen and 10 championships in 20 years as a head coach. His bond with the fans is unparalleled and he deserves to be the best compensated coach in the league. If Steve Martinson is not part of the long term plan it will make the sales and marketing of the team much more difficult".


- Martinson not only wins but he wins with an entertaining style of hockey. Allen is always at the top of the league in wins, goals, hits and fights. It all adds up to entertaining hockey games. 


- I have to admit when I heard the Allen Americans were being sold I incorrectly assumed at the press conference announcing the sale, a contract extension for coach Martinson would also be announced. That obviously didn't happen. To me it was even more concerning the way both men answered the simple question, have you re-signed Martinson yet? Here are the exact quotes:
Gulati: "No comment, how is that."
Martinson: "No comment."
Gulati: "He does have an agreement for a year and then I am sure we are going to be talking."


-  I keep asking myself if I am reading more into this because I am a Steve Martinson supporter and I know from covering the team for five years he is not a "no comment" kind of guy. I have only known Jack Gulati for a week but I do know without a doubt his interest is having a successful team on the ice so he can improve the franchise off the ice. It seems like a perfect fit but watching the body language and listening to their responses at the press conference has me nervous about the future. Unfortunately, I don't have any answers but my plan is to try and talk to the coach and owner tomorrow and see if I can get some clarification. Let's hope I am just being a nervous Nelly and am reading more into this than I should. Stay tuned.



OTHER COMMENTS


- Two long winning streaks continued last night. The Colorado Eagles beat Utah 7-1 to run their winning streak to 15 games. Colorado now has a five point lead over the Americans. Allen's AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda beat Tucson 4-3 in overtime for their 14th consecutive win. 


- Greger Hanson played his second game for Binghamton (AHL) last night as they lost 3-2 at home to Utica. Hanson had one shot on goal but the rest of his boxscore was all zeros. Binghamton finishes three games in three days tonight when they travel to Hartford to play the Wolf Pack.


- The Americans are in the midst of a three day break which is actually a delayed break for the all-star game. Because the all-star game was so close the the Christmas break, coach Martinson and the team agreed it would be better to delay the three days off until now. The winner with the delay is Chad Costello who had to play in the all-star game resulting in him missing the three days off if the break would have have been as originally scheduled. The loser is Greger Hanson who was just loaned to Binghamton and is missing out on the break. The three day break will actually turn out to be a four day break for most players. The team is supposed to return to practice on Tuesday. Coach Martinson scheduled practice later than normal (1:00 pm) to allow players that were traveling out of town more time to return. He then converted the Tuesday practice to optional so players don't have to show up for practice until Wednesday morning. Martinson said he had taken note of the five day bye week the NHL has adopted and he thought the four day break may help the team down the stretch.


- If you haven't been paying attention to the Mountain Division standings they have really tightened up. With the exception of Rapid City the other six teams are all in the playoff hunt. Alaska and Utah have been slipping and Missouri is surging. Here are the current standings with games remaining in parentheses:

80 points - Colorado (16 games remaining)
75 points - Allen (15 games remaining)
67 points - Idaho (17 games remaining)
60 points - Alaska (20 games remaining)
57 points - Missouri (19 games remaining)
56 points - Utah (17 games remaining)
46 points - Rapid City (19 games remaining)


- The fate of some teams will rest on how they do against division rivals that they play down the stretch. Here are a few examples:

Utah plays Colorado five times down the stretch but finishes at home against Missouri.
Missouri has to play Allen five times and finishes their season with three games in Utah.
Idaho has six games against Rapid City & finishes the season with three games in Alaska.
Alaska has five games remaining against Rapid City & finishes at home against Idaho.



- Rapid City is out of the playoff picture but they could be the king maker when it comes to what teams make the playoffs. After this weekend all of the Rush's remaining games are within the Division. They play Idaho six times, Alaska five times, Utah three times, Colorado three times and they do not play Missouri or Allen.




DID YOU KNOW: Of all of the amazing stats when you look at Chad Costello's ECHL career the one that says the most to me is his margin of victory each season in points scored. If you compare stats against your peers it takes into account the variations in scoring over time. There is nobody in the modern era of ECHL hockey that is anywhere close to Chad in scoring.  Costello has 103 points this season and currently leads the ECHL scoring race by 34 points. In the 29 year history of the ECHL the scoring champion has won the scoring title by more than 20 points only five times. Chad is on his way to accomplishing that feat three years in a row.  Here are the five years in ECHL history where the scoring champion had at least twenty more points than the runner up along with where Chad currently fits this season. This is why I always say if you compare Chad to his peers rather than look at raw numbers he is the best scorer in the history of the league.

45 points - 2014-2015 (Chad Costello)
43 points - 1992-1993 (Trevor Jobe)
35 points - 1989-1990 (Bill McDougall)
34 points - 2016-2017 (Chad Costello) as of February 26
24 points - 1995-1996 (Hugo Belanger)
23 points - 2015-2016 (Chad Costello)







Saturday, February 25, 2017

Allen Wins, Tulsa's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and More Press Conference Thoughts

One of the few children's books I remember reading to our two kids over 30 years ago was called, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. As I watched the Allen Americans beat the the Tulsa Oilers 9-1 at the BOK Center last night that book came to mind after not thinking about it for many years.

The "very bad" day for Tulsa started long before the game as soft ice conditions caused by equipment failure overnight threatened to cancel the game before it started. It wasn't until after warmups that the ice was declared acceptable to play. The playing surface was just the beginning of the "terrible, horrible" day for Tulsa. Here is a list:

- According to the Tulsa broadcaster the Oilers couldn't wear their military specialty jerseys during the game because they did not have fighting straps on them. So the Oilers wore the specialty jerseys during warmups and then switched to their regular jersey for the game. The specialty jerseys were auctioned off after the game.
- The 9-1 loss at the hands of the Americans was the most lopsided defeat of the season for Tulsa.
- Tulsa played their worst game of the season on a night where they had one of their biggest crowds of the season as 9582 were in attendance to support Military Appreciation Night.
- You know it is a "very bad" day when the hometown newspaper headline recapping the game is an easy cliche, "Oilers get drilled by Allen 9-1."
- Terrible and horrible would be good words to describe the Tulsa defense. Starting goalie Colin Stevens played 32 minutes and gave up five goals on just 12 shots and most were not his fault.
- Things didn't get any better for backup goalie Jay Williams who played the last 28 minutes of the game. He allowed four goals on nine shots.
- You add up all the shots and and goals and Allen's shooting percentage for the game was 43%. That equates to a "no good" day for Tulsa.
- Allen was 50% on the power play (2-4) while Tulsa was 0% (0-2).
- Tulsa didn't fare any better when they tried to change momentum with a fight. Danick Paquette took on Derek Mathers and didn't land a single punch while taking quite a few.
- Things got worse later in the game for the Oilers and Paquette when he seemed to suffer a shoulder injury and had to leave the game.

You add that all together and you can see why it was a "Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" for Tulsa.


- A bad day for Tulsa meant a good day for Allen and it certainly was. Scoring nine goals anytime is impressive but to do so with Greger Hanson, David Makowski and Eric Roy out of the lineup is even more impressive. It shows the skill and depth of this team when they play to their potential.


- You know things are going well for Allen when they score nine goals and Chad Costello doesn't get a single assist in the game. Chad did however, lead the way with his first hat trick since December 5, 2015 against Utah.


- One of the most encouraging things about the win was the balanced scoring. Six different players scored goals and 13 of the 16 skaters had at least one point. Eight players had multiple points led by Bryan Moore with four points (1 goal 3 assists), Josh Brittain with three points (2 goals 1 assist) and Chad Costello with three goals. 


- Goals scorers for Allen were Costello (29,30,31), Asuchak (23), Moore (20), Steffes (15), Brittain (7,8) and Kerbashian (4). The video highlight package is on ECHL Rewind and it includes all nine goals. Here is the link: http://www.echl.com/


- Here is the recap of the game from the Tulsa World which includes quotes from Tulsa coach Jason Christie. http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/oilers/oilers-get-drilled-by-allen/article_ef0d14a9-ba4b-5166-9133-811298181742.html


- Coach Martinson's message to me after the game was short and sweet. "We had lots of traffic and numbers at the net which really paid off. We had some great passes which set up some great goals." I would say he was pleased.


OTHER COMMENTS

- I highlighted a few items in the blog yesterday from the Jack Gulati press conference on Thursday. I know many of you were there or have seen it somewhere on line but I wanted to highlight a couple more items from the press conference. Jack talked at length about being a visionary not an operator. He hires good people and lets them do their job. He said the on ice product was excellent but a lot of work needs to be done to "put more butts in the seats." To me that says he will be bringing in some new people to add to the current staff. It will be interesting to see the title and duties of the staff that are added. Jack also mentioned he has asked the commissioner to add games for Allen that would take the Americans on a road trip to the northeast to play Reading as well as teams like Elmira and Manchester. Commissioner McKenna said his goal was to get more variety in the teams that play in Allen. However, he made it clear no matter what division realignment takes place Allen will continue to play the majority of their games against Tulsa, Wichita and Missouri. 


- Allen didn't gain any ground on Colorado with their win in Tulsa last night. The Eagles beat Utah 5-3 to extend their winning streak to 14 games. Allen remains three points behind Colorado in the Mountain Division standings.


- Poor ice conditions were not  limited to Tulsa last night. The game between South Carolina and Rapid City at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center had to be postponed due to an ice issue in the arena. They expect the problem to be fixed for the two teams to play their scheduled game tonight.


- Greger Hanson was loaned to the Binghamton Senators yesterday and had quite a first game last night. Greger didn't have a point but had seven penalty minutes including a rare fight. Hanson had one shot on goal and was a -1 as the Senators lost to Toronto 6-3. Binghamton plays at home against Utica tonight and at Hartford on Sunday so hopefully Greger gets to play a couple more games this weekend.


- Talk about winning streaks, the San Jose Barracuda beat Tuscon 4-3 last night for their 13th straight win. They lead the Pacific Division of the AHL by six points.


- The Americans start their three day all-star break today. There will be no practice until next Tuesday. Time for a few days of fun, rest and relaxation.



DID YOU KNOW: Derek Mathers and Chad Costello are on pace to break all time single season records for the Allen Americans. Mathers had seven penalty minutes last night and has moved into third place all time for single season PIM's with 224 minutes. Derek only trails Brett Lyon (256 minutes) and Garrett Klotz (257 minutes). Derek is on pace to end up with close to 300 penalty minutes this season. Costello is on pace to break his own single season points record which is 125. With his hat trick last night Chad now has 103 points which is tied for second all time with himself as he finished with 103 points last season. Chad is currently on pace to finish with 130 points.


Friday, February 24, 2017

New Owner Press Conference Details, Allen vs Tulsa Game Preview, The Reading/Allen Connection


Jack Gulati addressing fans and media - photo by Dianne Webster

It was a very special day for the Allen Americans yesterday as Jack Gulati was introduced as the new owner of the team. It was a standing room only crowd that stopped by to attend the event. Jack Gulati will be a breath of fresh air for Allen and has already made decisions that are welcome. I am sure I will be talking about the details of the press conference over the next few days but here are a few highlights.

It was a standing room only crowd for the new owner press conference


- Big Red was not part of the sale of the team. The team will continue to use the bus through the end of the season but that will be the end of the line for Big Red in Allen. All that was said about next season is a transportation solution will have to be found. That does not necessarily mean the purchase of a new bus. The team could buy a bus, lease a bus and fly more. All Jack said is he will be working on a transportation solution.

- The concern about providing all necessary equipment for the players was clearly covered by Jack. He sees that as a top of the list item. That issue was so important to Jack he went to the Americans practice just prior to the press conference and personally told the players skates, sticks, tape etc. were a top priority and were being ordered. The picture below shows Jack addressing the team. The photo was prior to Gulati telling the team that their skates were on the way because as soon as he said that there were smiles and stick taps all around.

Jack Gulati addressing the team - photo by Dianne Webster

- Jack also addressed the possibility of local businessmen becoming minority owners of the team. Gulati has bought and sold over 40 businesses and is not an advocate of minority ownership. He does not foresee that happening in Allen.


- It was very clear watching Jack Gulati before, during and after the press conference he will be very engaging. Talk about working a room, he was a master. And you could tell he was enjoying every minute. He mentioned he plans on being in Allen about once a month and will time his visits around homestands. You will see him in the concourse talking to everyone. He plans to be in Allen for the next home games on March 17 & 18.


ALLEN VS TULSA GAME PREVIEW


- It will be a long day for the team as they will take Big Red to Tulsa (230 miles), play the Oilers (7:05 pm puck drop) and then drive back to Allen.


- Allen plays Tulsa 14 times this season and the game tonight will be number 10. In the first nine games Allen is 6-3 against the Oilers. The last time the teams met was February 4 at the BOK Center. Tulsa won 8-5 and the game wasn't that close. The Oilers were leading 7-2 at the end of the second period. It was the game that Derek Mathers and Reid Halabi fought twice. There won't be any rematch tonight as Halabi is serving a four game suspension.


- It seems like feast or famine when it comes to the roster lately. It will be more like famine tonight. Greger Hanson has been loaned to an AHL team. It hasn't been announced yet so I won't mention the team. David Makowski will not play because of an injury. Look for Dyson Stevenson to take some shifts at defense since the team is down to five healthy defensemen. Riley Gill is expected to make the start in goal.


- Here is a match up between Allen and Tulsa:

                                     ALLEN                                TULSA

Team Record               34-17-3-2 (73 points)              25-26-5-0 (55 points)
Division Ranking         2nd - Mountain                        4th - Central
Conference Ranking   3rd - Western                          9th - Western
League Ranking         4th                                           19th
Last Game                  3-2 Loss (Rapid City)               5-0 Win (Wichita)
Goals For                   219                                           161
Goals Against             166                                          174
Power Play                 21.8% (53/243)                        10.5% (23/219)
Penalty Kill                 83.8% (43/256)                         80.3% (46/233)
Most PIM's                 Mathers (217)                           Halabi (167)
Leading Scorer          Costello  (28-72-100)                Brewer (11-20-31)
                                   Hanson (30-35-56)                   Clark (15-12-27)         


-  Here is how Allen and Tulsa rank in the ECHL in some statistical categories:

Penalty Minutes Per Game: Allen 1st (20.23) - Tulsa 7th (17.20)
Goals Scored Per Game: Allen 2nd (3.91) - Tulsa 21st (2.88)
Goals Allowed Per Game: Allen 7th (2.96 ) - Tulsa 11th (3.11)
Shots For Per Game: Allen 14th (31.96) - Tulsa 3rd (34.39)
Shots Against Per Game: Allen 22nd (34.45) - Tulsa 12th (30.79) 
Power Play Percentage: Allen 5th (21.8%) - Tulsa 27th (10.5%)
Penalty Kill Percentage: Allen 11th (83.8%) - Tulsa 22nd (80.3%)


- The stats above that jump out at you are on special teams where Tulsa is the worst in the league on the power play and one of the worst on the penalty kill. Allen has used special teams to their advantage against Tulsa. The 8-5 loss to Tulsa on February 4 was an exception as the Oliers were 3-8 on the power play while Allen was 0-6. However in the six previous games Allen was 11-21 (52.4%) while Tulsa was 3-21 (14.3%). If Allen is to win tonight they need to take advantage of their excellent power play.


- Allen has lost their last two games while Tulsa won their last game but if you look at the last 10 games Allen's record is 7-2-1-0 compared to Tulsa's record of 2-7-1-0.


- Officials scheduled for the game are referee Andrew Wilk (#24) and linesmen Lucas Bisbee (#72) and Erik Contino (#89).



DID YOU KNOW: Riley Gill is the most famous Reading Royals alumni having won the Kelly Cup in Reading in 2013 when he was named the playoff MVP.  Did you know there are six players on the current Allen roster that played for Jack Gulati in Reading. Here is the list:

Riley Gill - 2012-14
Aaron Gens - 2013-14
Josh Brittain - 2013-14
Derek Mathers - 2014-16
Zach Hall - 2016-17
Miles Liberati - 2016-17


Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Open Letter to Allen's New Owner Jack Gulati


New Allen owner Jack Gulati

 I am sure most of you have heard by now the new owner of the Allen Americans is Jack Gulati who also owns the Reading Royals. Here is a little background on Jack taken from the Reading Royals website.

Jack David Gulati was born in India on September 20, 1942. His family immigrated to America in 1958 when he was fifteen years old. He attended high school in New York City and graduated in 1959. He enrolled at the University of Minnesota, and after a somewhat circuitous route, he received B.S. in Mathematics in 1966.
Like his father and grandfather before him, Jack had ambitions to become an entrepreneur. He acquired his first business in 1968 at the age of 26, and in the ensuing years he bought, sold, or created forty businesses. Among his companies have been Fidelity Technologies Corporation, TeleAlarm Group, Fidelity Investment Corporation, SafetyCare Technologies, and Stokesay Castle, located in USA and Europe.
Jack has received many honors over the years. President Ronald Reagan appointed Jack to the White House Conference on Small Business in 1986. In addition, President George H. W. Bush appointed him to the Small Business Advisory Committee of Federal Communications Commission. In 1992, Jack was part of a delegation sent to Dakar, Senegal to advise African countries on matters involving the transition from military to civil rule.
Jack has contributed to the communities in which he has lived. He was elected Township Supervisor in Upper Merion Township, Pennsylvania, and served from 1980-1986. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress from the 13th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 1982. Over the years Jack has been involved in civic and business organizations, namely Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Business.
Jack and his wife, Rosemary, have three sons, David, Charles, and Michael, and 11 grandchildren. Jack retired from full-time business activities in December, 2011. He turned over his remaining companies to his three sons, who have inherited the entrepreneurial spirit, and have continued to grow the businesses that Jack started. Jack bought the Reading Royals in March of 2014.


I had the opportunity to have a one on one chat with Jack Gulati as he was working away on the Allen acquisition. I mostly wanted to congratulate him and thank him for rescuing the Allen franchise from a tenuous situation. It didn't take long to realize we had a lot in common as we attended the University of Minnesota at the same time in the 1960's, we both have a passion for fishing and we share the same birthdate of September 20. What really impressed me in the brief discussion was he doesn't talk like he has all the answers. He asks lots of questions and is interested in feedback from all of his stakeholders. He believes in the use of customer advisory groups/councils and other forms of obtaining feedback. As a matter of fact, at the end of our brief discussion he asked if I would be willing to be part of his advisory group and of course I said yes. At the end of our chat I felt comfortable enough to mention to Jack I was working on a blog post that I was calling, "An Open Letter to Jack Gulati" where I was sharing my thoughts on what needs to be done to make the franchise successful. He wasn't defensive at all and was very encouraging. He gave me his business card and asked me to email my thoughts to him as soon as it was complete. 


Jack Gulati has forgotten more about running a business than I will ever know but I feel I am in a unique position to share my thoughts as he takes over in Allen. Over the last five years I have spent a considerable amount time covering the team on a daily basis. I also coordinate all season ticket sales, single games tickets, suite nights, veterans nights and miscellaneous other promotions at Heritage Ranch where I live. Each day I have the chance to talk to players, coaches, fans, front office staff, off ice officials, other media, Allen Event center staff, vendors and many others. That is a lot of time and energy for someone that has no formal connection to the team. I do feel I have a perspective that nobody else has and want to share that perspective to represent the views of many that don't have a voice. Here goes my letter to Jack Gulati. This was written prior to today's press conference so some of the issues raised below were addressed by Jack such as the fact Big Red was not part of the deal and the end of the season will be the end of the line for Big Red in Allen. I will go into more detail in the blog tomorrow.



STEVE MARTINSON - First among equals is signing Steve Martinson to a long term contract. His record as a coach and General Manager in unequaled with four championship in four years in Allen and 10 championships in 20 years as a head coach. His bond with the fans is unparalleled and he deserves to be the best compensated coach in the league. If Steve Martinson is not part of the long term plan it will make the sales and marketing of the team much more difficult. Also consider the value of the affiliation with San Jose which has been a vital part of the success in Allen. There are good and bad affiliations and the relationship with San Jose has been outstanding. My guess is San Jose is more connected to coach Martinson than the Allen Americans so another thing to think about. It is easy to talk about an affiliation with the Dallas Stars but that is unlikely.


THE PLAYERS - You have a reputation of taking good care of your players and that will surely be welcome. A successful on ice product is a key to success. Unfortunately the team has won the last four years not because of how the players have been treated but inspite of how they have been treated. Housing, utilities, travel, medical care, skates, equipment, bonuses, perks are all examples. If you want details from someone outside of the organization let me know. Again, if you take care of the players as you have with your team in Reading it will be a big improvement. Housing, facilitates, equipment and travel arrangements are all key elements to success. Make sure if you haven't already heard the stories about taking Big Red (the bus) through the mountains in the winter you have someone who was on those trips tell you all about them.


THE FANS - The Allen fans are loyal but many feel they have been left behind over the last few years and taken for granted. Each year there are fewer perks for season ticket holders and fewer opportunities to get together with the players. Fans ideas for improvement are not solicited on a regular basis. I know in reading about your background this is an area that is near and dear to your heart. You have used surveys, costomer advisory groups and you walk around and engage fans. You know how important it is to get feedback from the die-hard fan as well as the occasional game attendees. Fans are so happy you have purchased the team a little outreach effort will do wonders. Fans will become a key component of the marketing plan as there is nothing more powerful than season ticket holders that feel part of the team.  


THE FRONT OFFICE - I have had the opportunity to work with every single front office employee over the past five years. I am sure I am biased but they are a talented group that seems overworked and under appreciated. I know from your past experience you see the importance of sufficient staffing to grow sales, promotions and sponsorships.  My belief is if you treat employees in a professional manner and as full partners of the team they will give you their discretionary energy. Something as simple as attending the league conference, which hasn't always been the case in the past, speaks to professional development. With your leadership the whole will become much greater than the sum of the parts. I know you value work-life balance from reading about your lectures and book. To instill that concept in your employees is a great gift.


THE COMMUNITY - Relationships in the community are badly in need of repair. The reputation of the Allen Americans as a slow pay or no pay organization is known far and wide in the business community. This can be repaired by showing you are responsible corporate citizen that is active in the community.


MARKETING - It is interesting the single topic you hear about more than any other is how the Allen Americans could better market themselves. There is a sense that the marketing budget is either woefully short or the money set aside for marketing is never spent. The DFW Metroplex presents some difficult marketing challenges but also so unique opportunities. There are some very bright stakeholders that would be more than willing to share their ideas. Put a process in place to capture, analyze and implement the best of these ideas.


Maybe the best description of what the Allen Americans are getting with their new owner, Jack Gulati, is captured in a quote from a professor at Chestnut Hill College where Jack is a former board member. Last year Gulati was the keynote speaker at the school's Business Speaker Series. Here is what the professor had to say, "What impresses me most about Jack is not only what he has accomplished, but his willingness to give back to the community. He exemplifies a model leader, entrepreneur and good citizen."


I hope everyone joins me in helping in whatever way possible to make the Allen franchise successful.  






The Big Day for the Allen Americans has Finally Arrived - The Details


Finally the big day for the Allen Americans has arrived. If you follow social media you have undoubtedly seen the many announcements about the announcement.  All of the speculation comes to an end today at 1:00 pm.

I have had numerous calls, texts, emails and private messages asking what is about to happen. As you might imagine the team wants to be the one to make the announcement and I respect that. I can share what is pretty obvious and that is they would not have the mayor of Allen and the Commissioner of the ECHL join Allen executives at the Allen Event Center this afternoon and invite the media and fans if it wasn't good news.

- Everyone is welcome to attend the press conference so if you have the time and interest please stop by. I have been told the press conference is not intended to last very long, about 30 minutes, so a late lunch will be enough time to take it all in.

- The plan is to have the event on "Facebook Live" so that may be an option for some if you can't make it to the press conference but want to see what takes place.

- I know most of you have received the information below with all of the details about the press conference but in case you were missed here is all you need to know.


 

Allen Americans Hockey Club Announcement

Who: Allen Event Center
 What: Allen Americans Hockey Club Major Announcement
Where: Allen Event Center, Premium Level Lounge
200 E. Stacy Road #1350
Allen, TX  75002
Enter through the rotunda on the northwest corner of the arena.

When: February 23, 2017 - 1 p.m.

Why: Join Allen Americans executives, ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna and Allen Mayor Stephen
Terrell for a major announcement regarding the Allen Americans Hockey Club.
 
 About the Allen Americans Hockey Club

The Allen Americans play in the ECHL, the premiere AA hockey league in North America. The Americans were established in 2009 and have won four AA championships in seven full seasons of minor pro hockey. In those seven seasons Allen has qualified for the playoffs every year with five trips to the league finals in that time. Allen is in its third season in the ECHL after playing five years in the now defunct Central Hockey League.
Allen Americans Pro Hockey | 200 East Stacy Rd. | Allen, TX 75002 | United States


- I will have a special blog post this afternoon that will talk about the announcement that takes place at 1:00 pm. It will be posted at 2:00 pm so make sure to come back and check it out.



OTHER COMMENTS

- With all of the hoopla about the big announcement today it is easy to forget the team is preparing for a trip to Tulsa tomorrow to take on the Oilers. Even though Tulsa is not in the Mountain Division they play the Americans 14 times this season. Allen has 16 games remaining in the regular season and five of them are against Tulsa.


- Colorado won again last night beating Utah 5-4 in overtime. The Eagles have won 13 straight games and now lead the ECHL in points with 76. Despite the long Colorado winning streak Allen is just three points behind with 73 points.


- Former Allen American John Snowden was behind the bench last night as the Orlando Solar Bears beat Atlanta 4-0. John is the assistant coach for Orlando but is filling for head coach Drake Berehowsky  who has taken a temporary leave of absence after suffering a medical emergency Tuesday night.


- Here is the latest blog post from Aaron Dell where he talks about the game of playing goalie. Interesting read: https://www.nhl.com/sharks/news/worlds-okayest-blog--the-game-of-being-goalie/c-286992726




DID YOU KNOW: According to Wikipedia there have been 57 different franchises in the history of the ECHL and many of them have moved numerous times. Here is a good example. The Huntington Blizzard started out as a new franchise in Huntington, West Virginia and played from 1993-2000. The franchise was then moved to Beaumont, Texas and played as the Texas Wildcatters from 2003-2008. The franchise then moved to Ontario, California and played as the Ontario Reign from 2008-2015. In 2015 the franchise was moved to Manchester, New Hampshire where they currently play as the Manchester Monarchs. During all of those years and all of the moves none of the teams have ever won a championship. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ECHL Attendance Trending Down, On Pace for Lowest in Ten Years - Team By Team Results

Back in December I took a look at the ECHL attendance numbers which were clearly on a downward trend. Not necessarily an exciting topic but certainly an interesting one if you are looking at the health of your favorite team and the entire ECHL. The conventional wisdom is attendance improves after the first of the year when the weather turns cold and football is over. Now that the ECHL season is over 70% complete it is a good time to look at the attendance figures again.  What you find is the average attendance has increased since December but is still on pace to be the lowest in the last ten years. Attendance has been trending downward since 2013-14.


The information below is taken from the ECHL website and includes average league wide attendance for the last ten years and a comparison of attendance from last year to this year for each ECHL team.


The figures for this season are obviously based on just the first part of the season as 699 of 972 (71.9%) games have been played thus far. The average ECHL attendance has improved from 3930 in December to 4146 today.  The question is, will it exceed last year's average attendance (4385) and reverse the downward trend? 

Here is the average ECHL attendance over the last ten years:

4146 - 2016-17 (after 699 of 972 games)
4385 - 2015-16
4598 - 2014-15
4706 - 2013-14
4695 - 2012-13
4282 - 2011-12
4339 - 2010-11
4485 - 2009-10
4258 - 2008-09
4174 - 2007-08


If you look at the figures above some of the variation can be explained by teams coming and going from the league. However, the trend over the last three years is certainly downward and as it currently stands, the average ECHL attendance is 560 less per game than just three years ago. When you figure most ECHL teams get an estimated 70% - 80% of their revenue from ticket sales that is significant.


The next step was to look at the individual teams to compare average attendance from last season to this season to see who has lost attendance and who has gained attendance. The list below goes from the teams that have gained the most in attendance from 2015-16 to 2016-17 to those that have lost the most. This compares the number of games the team has played this season to the same number of games last season. The number in parenthesis is the average attendance for this season:

+399   Greenville (3790)
+389   Reading (3937)
+309   Utah (5217)
+255   Wichita (4674)
+214   Brampton (3011)
+201   Toledo (7239) 
+169   Adirondack (2604)
+44     South Carolina (3609)
+27     Kalamazoo (2246)
+25     Fort Wayne (7612)
-17     Florida (5013)
-37     Missouri (5043)
-53     Wheeling (2559)
-64     Idaho (4095)
-95    Tulsa (5588)
-126   Colorado (4775)
-136   ECHL AVERAGE (4146)
-183   Atlanta (4661)
-200    Quad City (3915) 
-233    Alaska (3400)
-298    Cincinnati (3880)
-329    Indy (3501)
-352   Allen (4239)
-475   Elmira (2410)
-547   Rapid City (3215)
-734   Orlando (5266) 
-896   Norfolk (2705)
-1049  Manchester (3354)


You get a little different picture if you look at percentage of increase or decrease rather than the raw numbers. Here is the list from the biggest increase in attendance to the biggest decrease from last season to this season in percentage:

+11.8%  Greenville
+11.0%  Reading
+7.7%   Brampton
+7.0%   Adirondack
+6.3%   Utah
+5.8%   Wichita
+2.9%   Toledo
+1.2%   South Carolina
+1.2%   Kalamazoo
+0.3%   Fort Wayne
-0.3%   Florida
-0.7%   Missouri
-1.5%   Idaho
-1.7%   Tulsa
-2.0%   Wheeling
-2.6%   Colorado
-3.2%   ECHL AVERAGE
-3.8%   Atlanta
-4.9%   Quad City
-6.4%   Alaska
-7.1%   Cincinnati
-7.7%   Allen
-8.6%   Indy
-12.2%  Orlando
-14.5%  Rapid City
-16.5%  Elmira
-23.8%  Manchester
-24.9%  Norfolk



CONCLUSIONS

- There are 10 teams with increased attendance over last season and 17 with decreases but the decreases are much larger than the increases. If you add it all together the ECHL average attendance (4146) is down 136 per game league wide. This is a 3.2% decline in attendance when you compare the 699 games played thus far this season to the first 699 games last season. 


- Results don't always tie to attendance increases but it is worthy to note the three teams with the biggest percentage increase in attendance (Greenville, Reading, Brampton) all have higher winning percentages than last season. In the case of Brampton and Greenville they were last place teams last season and are much improved this season.


- At the other end of the spectrum is Manchester and Orlando. Manchester is in first place in the North Division but has the biggest decline in attendance in the ECHL averaging 1049 fewer fans per game than last season. Orlando is tied for second in the South Division but has the third biggest decline in attendance (734).


- Another red flag when looking at the attendance chart above relates to Norfolk (-24.9%) and Manchester (-23.8%) who have the biggest percentage decline in attendance from last season. Both of these teams (along with Adirondack) are former AHL cities who joined the ECHL last season after losing their AHL franchises. To have such big decreases in attendance in the second year of operation has to be concerning.


- There are five franchises averaging less than 3000 per game (Norfolk, Adirondack, Wheeling, Elmira and Kalamazoo). While a few franchises have survived averaging less than 3000 such as Wheeling and Kalamazoo they are the exception not the rule.


-There are eight teams that have had declines in attendance of 6.4% or more. Two of the teams (Elmira and Alaska) have been in the press recently with stories about the viability of the franchises going forward. The financial woes in Allen and Rapid City are a poorly kept secret. As already mentioned Norfolk and Manchester have year over year attendance declines of over 20%. There is little doubt sold or fold may be the story line for some ECHL franchises going forward. With Worcester and Jacksonville starting play this fall the hope is the league doesn't lose any franchises and continues to grow.


DID YOU KNOW: Fort Wayne leads the ECHL in attendance this season averaging 7612 per game. You have to go  back to the 2013-14 season for the last team that averaged over 8000 per game when Ontario averaged 8158. Check out these numbers which is a list of the teams that led the ECHL in average attendance in the 1990's.

1991-92:   9472  (Cincinnati)
1992-93:   7904  (Hampton Roads)
1993-94:   9151  (South Carolina)
1994-95:   8589  (South Carolina)
1995-96:   9775  (Louisiana)
1996-97:   11433 (Louisiana)
1997-98:   11196 (Louisiana)
1998-99:   9857  (Louisiana)