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Salvador gets interactive with fans

by Marcie Garcia
Bryce Salvador proves that NHL players aren’t just meant to shoot the puck.

Salvador, a veteran defenseman for the New Jersey Devils, not only has hockey sense, but boasts an impressive amount of business sense to boot. Salvador has been involved in various businesses during the past several years, opening hockey training facilities, restaurants, and most recently, starting Fan-Tastic Sports Interactive with partner Brian McKinney.

Fan-Tastic Sports is every hockey fan’s dream, treat, and challenge. The hockey-themed interactive games test your skills while providing the ultimate hockey experience with its hardest shot, shooting accuracy, precision passing, quick-hands, and deflection zone stations. Each station replicates a realistic game situation, whether it’s passing through traffic, shooting 5-hole, or sniper style, while measuring the performance of every player.

The interactive games can help improve a player’s hand-eye coordination, puck control, reflexes, stick handling, and more. And to regular fans of hockey, it’s just plain fun. The idea of creating the games stemmed from a very simple theory:

"It was really easy for me to envision this because it's what I do and I just wanted to relate and pass the game of hockey on to people," Salvador said. "This is a vision that I've had because hockey has really lacked that true fan interaction like other sports have in football or baseball, where they have fan festivals for baseball and (pass, punt, kick) for football at their arenas. We want to steer toward that direction. It’s fortunate for us that my partner had the technical background to design and develop my ideas.”

And so far, it's been a big hit.

This summer, the interactive stations were introduced at the Calgary Stampede and the Chicago Blackhawks Inaugural Fan Festival and Salvador was more than pleased with its positive reaction. Using swipe cards per player, he’s been able to track what station has been more popular, but has found each are being used pretty equally. The high-tech swipe card also allows hockey enthusiasts to track and record player scores and compares them to some of today’s best NHL players. The swipe cards can also compare scores within a certain criteria, such as age group.

With Salvador offering his ideas and feedback throughout, McKinney put his engineering degree to good use by creating the interactive games and the swipe-card function. Based in Minneapolis, McKinney also co-owns Total Development Center and subsidiary Total Hockey Training Systems, where he’s successfully fused his engineering expertise with his hockey background (He played Junior B hockey for the St. Louis Junior Blues and holds a Level 3 coaching certification from USA Hockey).

It's not all fun and games, but it sure feels like it.

Fan-Tastic Sports recently put its tech-savvy products to use after former Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jason Woolley, who now owns and operates Woolley-Martin Sports and Entertainment, hired Fan-Tastic Sports to supplement two high-profile fan festivals with its interactive stations.

When Woolley met Salvador through a mutual contact and learned of Fan-Tastic Sports' offerings, he invited them to host their stations at the Hockey Canada FanFest Exhibit Tour at the Calgary Stampede Festival, and the Chicago Blackhawks Convention.

"The shows are very interactive and engaging to fans of all ages," Woolley said. "We felt that the added interactives from Fan-Tastic Sports were a positive complement to our model. Today, we are experiencing increasing interest in our hockey fan fest model."

Like Salvador, Woolley hopes hockey will follow Chicago's footsteps and embrace fan fests often and keep Fan-Tastic Sports and Woolley-Martin busy.

"As our clients see how the show comes together and how their fans are responding to what we are offering, we hope they will be interested in making it a yearly staple to their team marketing,” Woolley said. "Our productions benefit our client because it provides an opportunity for them to generate additional revenue while, at the same time, pleasing the fans. We hope to continue to add to our show as well as our client list."

So maybe one day you’ll find yourself testing your hardest shot in the corridors of your city's NHL arena? Or shooting at the breadbasket of your nemesis goaltender?

"For the NHL it would serve as great entertainment at arenas especially when having the fans competing against each other,” Salvador said. “There are plenty of ways to engage the fans during hockey season, but we also want to make hockey a year-round sport for the fans."

As Salvador, 32, prepares for the "second chapter" of his professional hockey career with the Devils -- only his second NHL club after re-signing with New Jersey in the offseason -- he sticks to the same routine and looks forward to begin the season with a proven winner.

"In the mornings I’m able to work out and do my training regimens for hockey, and in the afternoon I spend a couple of hours seeing what’s going on in the business world,” Salvador said.  "I enjoy it, especially when it’s in hockey because it’s what I know.

"It’s too bad I didn’t have all this (interactive training) 20 years ago or maybe I’d be an offensive defenseman."

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