Thread: Prospect Info: Wheeling Nailers for sale
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01-19-2012, 08:03 AM
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Location: Cheswick, PA
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Originally Posted by iamjs View Post
as a longtime and soon-to-be former Johnstown resident, I hate to say it but I'm not sure if they could handle a full-time ECHL team. I know a lot of people still hold some sort of agenda about Wheeling not being "their" team, and the older fans still view Wheeling as some sort of rival despite the Chiefs not playing a game in the War Memorial since 2010. I'm not saying there isn't interest in the area. Once Neil Smith announced the Chiefs were moving, attendance went up and they even sold out a few games during the final month of the 2009-10 season. But it should take more than a relocation announcement to get people to show up to a game.

A lot of things have changed since the Chiefs were regularly selling out games in the early to mid 90s with regularity: the economy, the population of the area (down 20% since the Chiefs inaugural AAHL season), and one that many people over look, a lot of people don't flock to minor league events like they would have 15-20 years ago.

Could another league work in Johnstown? Absolutely. The NPHL, if it ever gets operating, would be the equivalent of what the ECHL was in the late 80s.
If they want it to work: here's what I think needs to happen:
*Tickets need to be affordable. One of the main complaints I've heard about games are how much tickets have gone up since the early days. With the NPHL being a lower level of hockey, lower than the level of play in the ECHL and since the Johnstown team wouldn't exactly be the Boston Bruins, you could probably get away with a $10 ticket instead of a $15.50 ticket. Give them a lower price on the ticket, get them in the gate and make it up in concessions....although i'm sure there's something in the arena agreement where the arena gets the majority of food and drink sales.
*Advertising. Promote the **** team!! This is something that really hasn't happened since the mid 2000s, possibly earlier. A billboard on back of the arena is essentially worthless when the front of the arena is already advertising the game dates. Place billboards in high traffic areas and outlying areas of town. I realize stuff like billboards, signs in local businesses cost money, but you have to spend money to make money. At my last job, they gave away 5 sets of tickets to every Chiefs home game. Most of the people didn't realize the Chiefs were still in town. So if they didn't know the Chiefs were still in town, you could imagine the surprise last year when I told the same people that Wheeling was playing in the War Memorial. "But I thought the Chiefs left, how is Wheeling playing at the War Memorial?"
*Veterans. The one thing I notice when people bring up the Chiefs is there's always a long time veteran that they remember, like the Rick Boyds and Rob Hrytsaks of the early 90s or even the Jeff Sullivans and Dmitri Tarabrins of the later teams. I know the ECHL has veteran status for players over 200 games and each team is only allowed to retain a number of veterans (think it was 6 and maybe now it's 4), but create something in the new league for players who plan on staying in one town towards the end of their career. I realize that the minors are a business, but for each fan that knows that there are reasons for players switching teams for business/contractual reasons, there are 20 more fans who are upset because player x isn't here anymore. Keep some of the fans happy, and those fans will continue to come through the gate.
The veteran theme is one that I have heard referenced several times in discussions that I have had with ECHL fans. Most bemoan the lack of veterans with teams. I followed the Nailers this season at the start and noticed only about 4 names from last season. Only two had been there longer than one season. That definitely needs to change. I had proposed a franchise exemption for one veteran. This player would be a guy who has been with the team for five seasons or so. He could then become a marketing focus as well as helping with player recruiting. You could have your six veterans with an exemption. That is seven players. Plus if the AHL teams assign five guys each that is 10 which takes the roster up to 17. Realisticly, the AHL teams will assign 3 each so you are looking at 6 plus 6. that is twelve. Leaving the franchise with 8 players who would be under 200 games. Veterans would also lead to rivalries which would drive attendance and interest up.

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