- Stopped by the Allen Event Center yesterday and you can tell hockey is getting closer. The boards and glass are in the rink and the ice will go in in the next few days. Had heard last year that new glass would be installed this year but from what I could see this has not happened. Something is happening with the Americans Team Store as it was all tore up. The number of players skating in the community rink is increasing (Ross Rouleau has joined the group) and several players are on the road making the long drive from their homes to Texas. Those flying in will be here next week.
- No official word from the Americans but have heard from several reliable sources with first hand knowledge that Alex Bourret has made the decision to not join the Americans this year. He has decided to stay at home. He could always change his mind between now and when camp starts on October 7th but that is not expected. This is a tough loss for Allen as Bourret would have been one of the best players in the CHL.
- David Strathman, who spent his rookie season with the Americans (2010-2011) and was selected to the All Star team and the CHL all rookie team has signed to play for the St. Charles Chill this season.
- I came across the article below written by Morgan Campbell of thestar.com that does an excellent job of laying out the challenges facing the Brampton Beast in the quest to establish a successful CHL franchise in Canada. Cary Kaplan is well known in the marketing field and has been to Dallas to talk hockey marketing as some of the Americans staff have attended his presentation. Appears to be some long odds but don't underestimate Kaplan, majority owner Gregg Rosen and the Brampton Beast.
BRAMPTON — Where others saw empty seats, Cary Kaplan and Gregg Rosen eyed an opportunity.
After four seasons drawing the smallest average crowds in the Ontario Hockey League, the Brampton Battalion announced last November they were moving to North Bay, prompting Kaplan and Rosen to swoop in and secure a 10-year lease on Brampton's Powerade Centre before they had even found a team to play there.
By January, the pair had acquired an expansion franchise in the U.S.-based Central Hockey League and next month the Brampton Beast will begin play in a minor pro circuit that has seen 33 teams fold or change leagues since its inception in 1992.
While financial success in Brampton isn't assured, Kaplan, president of the marketing firm Cosmos Sports, and Rosen, president of Kimco Steel, don't see it as a gamble. They're set to spend $3 million a year running the club, which is affiliated with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And they aren't just confident they'll turn a profit this season.
"Our goal is to sell out every game," says Kaplan, former president of the American Hockey League's Hamilton Bulldogs.
"People don't believe it. A lot of people don't think this team is going to make it."
Home to nearly 1.3 million residents, the fast-growing Peel region has the population to fill several arenas.
It just hasn't shown the desire.
Last season the average OHL game attracted 4,021 spectators, but Brampton recorded the league's worst attendance (2,191 per game) despite qualifying for the playoffs. And the OHL's second-weakest attendance figures belonged to the neighbouring Mississauga Steelheads (2,337).
The previous season the league's two Peel-based teams were again its worst performers at the gate, with Brampton drawing fewer than 2,000 spectators a game.
"Minor league sports teams typically are an expense item for their major league counterpart," says University of Ottawa sports business professor Norm O'Reilly. "The Marlies, even with MLSE and all the fanfare, still haven't been a huge success from most metrics. It's not the big show and Toronto has a very limited interest in second-tier events."
But Rosen, the team's majority owner, says other owners of local non-NHL clubs haven't figured out how to sell their teams to local consumers. "It's all about marketing and creating a buzz on a limited product," says Rosen, one-time owner of the Kingston Voyageurs hockey team. "What's the difference between Lululemon and Title Nine? Nothing, but Lululemon's making millions and Title Nine is barely making a living. The difference? How they market their product."
North Bay Battalion owner Scott Abbott says packaging the product is the Beast's biggest problem.
The Battalion struggled to retain fans in Brampton even while playing in a league full of future NHL stars. He says marketing minor league lifers to a population already indifferent to hockey will be even tougher.
"The Battalion was in the schools and in the corporate community," says Abbott, who reports strong ticket sales in North Bay. "There just was no traction, and I'm not sure a Central Hockey League team is going to get that kind of traction."
The Beast has no radio deal, and the OHL's deal with Rogers means the team won't appear on local cable television, but for $50 fans can watch all the Beast's games in the 10-team league online.
For the length of their lease — which could last 15 years if the club picks up a five-year option — the Beast will own signage rights at the 5,000-seat Powerade Centre. The value of those rights will rise if fans pack the building, and Rosen says Brampton and surrounding areas are too populous not to provide plenty of sellouts.
"There are more than 500,000 people just in Brampton," Rosen says.
"Take the surrounding area and I'm into the millions of people. All I need is 5,000 of them to say ‘I want to be entertained.' Hockey is entertainment."
To connect with potential fans, Kaplan says the club has hired 20 marketing staff, significantly more than most CHL and OHL teams, and they're working to fill the building through group sales.
One promotion at a Brampton sports bar features a Beast Burger — a giant patty topped with peameal bacon and onion rings and served on a loaf of bread emblazoned with the team's logo. Finish the 40-ounce burger within 40 minutes and it's free. Fail and you pay $40.
"You don't have to be prepared to lose money," Kaplan says. "You have to be prepared to spend on sales and marketing. ‘Build it and they will come' is a ridiculously overrated concept. You gotta build it and work, work, work."