Ez Street Posted September 24, 2003 Share Posted September 24, 2003 By Tommy BowmanJOURNAL REPORTERCanada and beer - or, in this case, Canadian beer - seem to fit with hockey.At least the Winston-Salem team in the new South East Hockey League is banking on that theory. And so is Moosehead beer, which has bought naming rights to the team introduced yesterday as the Winston-Salem Moosehead.'We were going to let the fans name the team, but there's no money in that,' said team owner John Baker, who said he's intent on making a go of the sixth try at minor-league hockey in Winston-Salem.Mark Williams, a former vice president of the Huntington Blizzard of the ECHL, was named the team's general manager and Mike LaZazzera, who has coached in four pro leagues, was named as coach.The team's jersey will carry the Moosehead brand's green, gold and red colors along with the same moose head found on bottles.Jim Riggs, the commissioner of the SEHL, said he knows of no other American pro team actually named for a consumer-product brand.'It happens a lot in Europe, a lot of those teams are corporately sponsored,' Riggs said. 'I think you're going to see it happen here more and more. We saw the value in that (Moosehead) will help us promote the team.'Naming the team after a beer brand might make for a tough sell in any attempt to market the team as family entertainment or in areas of community involvement in which youth are involved, and Riggs said that potential ramifications of naming a team after a beer brand was discussed.'There are issues regarding any alcoholic beverage that you're involved with,' Riggs said. 'We're going to be very careful that you obviously don't sell to minors and we're not going to do any merchandising that has the beer name on it. It has the logo on it, but it's not going to say 'beer' on it.'Williams said that the idea is no different than in NASCAR, which has cars sponsored by beer companies.'I don't foresee any downside of it,' Baker said. 'These fans come to see hard-hitting hockey. They don't care what the name is.'And Baker wants to see fans turn out. Last year's team, the Winston-Salem Parrots, drew an average of 666 fans a game at the Coliseum Annex, according to Riggs.'That's not a good number, for a variety of reasons,' Riggs said.Baker was an owner of the Winston-Salem Thunderbirds from the 1986-87 season through 1989-90, and he said that team drew well and made money.'If I have to comp (give out) a thousand extra tickets, I'll do it,' Baker said. 'I hate to see people dressed up like an empty seat. Whatever it takes to get people in here I'm going to do it.'Riggs said that the team will do more media advertising.'Some of it you understand because (the Parrots) didn't move here until December,' Riggs said. 'But there was no excuse for the fact that once they were here they didn't do anything promotion-wise.'Baker said: 'You've got to give people what they want. You certainly can't have players come in dressed up like a ballerina. Fans don't care how ... good they skate. They care about how fast they skate off that bench to go get somebody.'LaZazzera promised to bring back a big, tough brand of hockey 'reminiscent of the Rick Dudley days.' He said that he quickly connected with Baker when talking to him about possibly coaching the team.'I knew this was going to work about three minutes into the conversation,' LaZazzera said. 'The style of team he was looking for is the style of team I like to coach. I like a big, strong, tough team and I think at this level, that's what wins.'LaZazzera was an assistant coach with the Reading Royals of the ECHL last season. 'I only have 30 days but I have a lot of contacts,' LaZazzera said, regarding player prospects. 'And, let's be honest, this is single-A hockey. The East Coast league is double-A. Players that don't make those rosters will be fine here. I'm going to hit East Coast Hockey League camps and bring in the biggest, toughest guys I can.'The Moosehead will begin the season with two games at home, on Oct. 24 and 25, before taking to the road for five weeks because of scheduling conflicts at the Annex. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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