GLENS FALLS, NY -- Win or lose, the Adirondack Thunder should make plenty of noise next year.
Team President Brian Petrovek said thunder-and-lightning storm sound effects are one of the unique ways he plans to market Calgary’s new East Coast Hockey League affiliate that will begin play next season in Glens Falls, N.Y.
The Thunder will replace the Adirondack Flames, which are moving to Stockton, Ca. at the end of this season as members of a new AHL Pacific Division. The ECHL franchise currently at Stockton, which Calgary recently purchased, is called the Thunder.
Rather than naming Adirondack’s new team the Flames, too, the Thunder brand gives the team a new identity, while marking a fresh start to more than 30 years of pro hockey in Glens Falls.
“With all the changes being made, we felt a new start was the way to go,” Petrovek said Wednesday, during a press conference unveiling the team’s name, logo and color scheme. “We’re excited about what next October will bring.”
Petrovek’s company, Adirondack Sports & Entertainment, contracts with Calgary to run the business side of operations in Glens Falls.
The Flames moved to Glens Falls last May 16 from Abbottsford, B.C., leaving Petrovek less than five months to prepare for the 2014-15 season. He’s optimistic that fan support will remain strong despite Adirondack’s moving from the AHL to the ECHL.
“Even with the change from Triple-A to Double-A, our attendance numbers are going to grow,” Petrovek said. “We now have the opportunity to launch on time for next year. We’ve got a staff, we’ve got data, we’ve got more knowledge of the market.”
The Flames are currently averaging about 3,600 fans per game, although actual bodies in seats is somewhat less after factoring in things such as no-shows from corporate ticket purchases.
“We’re not yet at the number we need to be at,” Petrovek said. “Hopefully by the end of the season if we have a good run, our support should increase as we get into the home stretch.”
Ticket sales are just one component of a business model that also relies heavily on corporate sponsorships, concessions and merchandising. The latter element has done extremely well this year as fans have embraced Calgary’s colors on scarves, hats, shirts and jackets.
Thunder souvenirs and apparel will go on sale shortly after the current Flames season comes to an end.
“I think fans are going to be thrilled because they’re just going to add to their collection,” Petrovek said. “I think they’re going to be very excited about the line of items we’ll be unveiling.”
On an overall scale of 1 to 10, Petrovek said Adirondack’s business rates a “7” this year.
“But I’m not blaming the ‘3’ (the difference) on the market,” he said. “I’m blaming the ‘3’ on us and our late start, which is why we now have the opportunity to launch on time for next year.”
Thunder uniforms are already in production. A fifth color, grey sleeve striping, is being added to the current Flames colors — red, gold, black and white.
The Thunder’s logo is similar to one now in use at Stockton, with several modifications. The logo depicts a Thor-like character wearing a winged Viking helmet and bright red beard, holding a hockey stick in place of a hammer. The capital ‘T’ in Thunder has a lightning bolt running down through it.
The word ‘Adirondack’ is in gold lettering.
Petrovek said the team’s mascot, still unnamed, will also resemble Thor, the Norse god of thunder.
Whether it’s the AHL or ECHL, the bottom line is that Glens Falls will still have pro hockey, which began in 1979 with the AHL’s Adirondack Red Wings. That was followed by seven years of United Hockey League action.
After a three-year hiatus, the sport returned when the AHL’s Phantoms moved to Glens Falls and played there five years while awaiting construction of a new arena at Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Pa.).
The Thunder will be in the ECHL’s East Division that also includes Elmira, N.Y., Reading, Pa., Manchester, N.H. and Norfolk, Va.
As franchise owners, Calgary will have complete control of the players on Adirondack’s roster.
Glens Falls businessman Scott Endieveri said, ““It’s big for us to have home events for the Glens Falls Civic Center that bring people downtown. If you’re going to put 3,000 or 4,000 people in the Civic Center it’s going to mean a lot of business for the downtown area.”
“It’s nice to have professional hockey players in the area,” he said. “And fans come from out of town. They stay and spend their money in the area.”
The Thunder are one of just four NHL-affiliated teams in the ECHL.
“You know you’re in good hands with a Calgary-owned and operated team,” Petrovek said.