Please welcome Ashle Lynn Norling to Bus League Hockey, she was kind enough to attend Saturday’s game in Bloomington and report back from it, she’ll be chipping here in here from now on, be sure to give her a follow on Twitter!
BLOOMINGTON, IL – The Federal Prospects Hockey League made its debut in Bloomington, IL at the Grossinger Motors Arena this past weekend. On the ice both nights the expansion Danbury Hat Tricks dominated the action winning 5-1 on night one, and 3-0 on night two over the defending champion Carolina Thunderbirds. But off the ice things looked fairly promising.
While both teams played one game each as the home team (Carolina on Friday and Danbury on Saturday) it was the Thunderbirds who brought their off ice staff to the series. A full camera/streaming crew and a few people to man a merchandise table were there as well.
Merch wasn’t anything huge with two teams not only from out of the area but halfway across the country playing. It was a basic white shirt with a design commemorating and Pro Hockey’s return to Bloomington and the game with both teams and the leagues logo. They were reasonably priced with the T-Shirt being $10 and a long sleeve crew neck being $15. The only other thing really promoting the new team (that caught me enough to remember if there was anything else) was a small table with slips for the Name the Team contest.
The arena in Bloomington also blew me away, now this is taking into consideration the level it will be hosting and its size. Seating over 6,000 fans for hockey with two full flanks of suites at the top, two party suites, and a restaurant on one side it is a fantastic place to watch a game without a bad seat in the house. That restaurant also overlooks a second sheet of ice known as the Bloomington Ice Center so the team won’t have to go far to practice if they can’t on the arena sheet.
Another bonus for the players and coaches that will play in the building is the locker rooms being directly connected to the benches. This might seem like a menial feature but there are some USHL, SPHL, and even NCAA DI arenas that don’t have that, and I mean not always having to cross the ice to get to the bench if you’re walking is nice too. This is easily an ECHL caliber arena being used in the FPHL and will be by far the best in the league next season.
Now, what everyone has been curious and debating about: the attendance. Yes it was low, probably no higher than 350 people on each night (Editor’s Note: Friday appeared to be the bigger night with more people in the actual visible seats). And yes, that seems low but there are quite a few factors to consider. First being the lack of promotion for the games. Now as a disclaimer, I do not live in Bloomington, but rather two hours away in the Quad Cities. That being said I am your typical millennial, I don’t watch or listen to traditional TV or radio, so I wouldn’t have seen or heard ads in those anyway.
That being said, in the six weeks between the announcement and the games there was four (Dec 3rd, 6th, 26th, and Jan 2nd) ads on the arena’s Facebook page. The local newspaper (The Pantagraph) didn’t seem to help either having only three articles on it. One on the possibility of a team (Nov 19th), one on the actual announcement (Nov 20th), and the last one, the day tickets went on sale (Dec 4th). With teams not only from out of the area, but from halfway across the country and little to no publicity, I think 350 fans is a win.
Overall there are DEFINITELY things they’ll need to improve upon. Merch obviously is one, the odd streaming is another. If you didn’t see that, the Thunderbirds had a camera setup on roughly the blue line but in the arena they had a 2 or 3 camera setup.
Promotion and advertising is probably the biggest thing they need to conquer, being these are only neutral site games, I’ll give them a bit of a pass. This will HAVE to change and they’ll HAVE to get local media on their side though. And of course a mascot (Prairie Thunder has been suggested to me a lot) that will resonate with an area that has been through four (soon to be five) leagues, four names, and five logos in just over a decade.