Monthly Archives: December 2012

Las Vegas Wranglers Article

Roping in the audience

Being a non traditional Ice Hockey market is something that the Australian hockey fraternity is used to, but how do you overcome that barrier if you are a team based in a country where the sport is popular?  Craig Tonks looks at how the Las Vegas Wranglers go about just that. pic :: It’s 30 degrees outside (86F) and it’s time to go to the ice hockey with the family.
The trip to the rink is the same however your driving on the other side of the road. The landscape is strikingly similar to  landscapes you would see in some Australian towns.
Inside the rink is like any other rink in North America but the surrounds is what makes it unique as the rink for the Las Vegas Wranglers, the Orleans Arena is located at the Orleans Hotel & Casino. The rink has a capacity of 9500 persons which I am sure would be the envy of many Australian teams. The Las Vegas Wranglers are a professional ice hockey team from Las Vegas who play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) which was formed in 1988-89.
The Wranglers joined the league in 2003 and have been considered a success on and off the ice. Sure it’s Vegas which has the glitz and glamour that you would expect from Vegas but how do the Wranglers connect with the community and get patrons to come to games?
Rachel Wright, The Wranglers Director of Media and Public Relations offers her thoughts. “Vegas is definitely a city unlike most others, with everything that goes on here and all of the ‘competition’ for advertising/editorial space and people’s attention.
We’ve been targeting the local community since coming to Vegas, and have really embraced the ‘My Town, My Team’ slogan that’s been in use since last season. “We want fans to jump on our bandwagon and feel like they are a part of something, and we sometimes use local celebrity tie-ins, like Mike Tyson and Carrot Top sounding our siren before the Kelly Cup Finals games last year, to include everyday fans and people in the ‘cool’ side of Las Vegas”.
Similar to the Newcastle North Stars who hold a toy drive each year for the John Hunter Children’s Hospital, the Wranglers interact with the local Vegas community to expand their fan base. “We care about the community, as these are the fans that support our team and our front office and our livelihood, and we try to give back and get involved as much as possible because it’s the proper thing to do. Some players have met their wives here, and built families here, as have some front office members, so this is home for a lot of people, and we want to help make it better however we can. Past community events have included reading programs, planting trees, packing boxes for food pantries, and a variety of fundraising efforts through specialty jerseys and raffle items” added Wright.
In what some would think of a strange parallel to the Blue Tongues, who were required to play games at 10.30pm, the Wranglers hold an annual “Midnight Roundup” where a game is played at midnight each year to the benefit of workers who traditionally miss games due to having to work in the gaming industries. The ECHL has many similarities to the Australian Ice Hockey League (AIHL) and the Wranglers face the challenges that face many Australian teams. In the league many teams have come and gone.
Teams have relocated and with some more successful than others. The league however is expanding but at a rate that is comfortable and not just expanding for the sake of expanding. The Wranglers are probably a similar product to the Perth Thunder or Gold Coast Blue Tongues as they are all located in non-traditional, tourist or emerging markets.
The Wranglers are a definitely a unique team in a unique town that we here in Australia can learn a lot from. Hewitt Sports Network will be in Vegas on the 3rd of March 2013 for the game against the San Francisco Bulls.
By Craig Tonks

Olivier Martin

Olivier takes new look into training

Normally over the Australian Summer most of us hockey fans are deeply involved with the NHL and the journey towards the Stanley Cup but what do some of our AIHL stars do over Summer? Exactly what do our players do come October? Craig Tonks caught up with Newcastle North Stars goal tender, Olivier Martin to find out about the 2012 and upcoming 2013 season and what he gets up to in the off-season.

pic :: Debra Jean Photography

Craig Tonks: What is your history in hockey? 

Olivier Martin: Being Canadian, hockey is everywhere, I honestly can’t remember when I started skating and playing but it was at a very young age. My first competitive season was in 97/98 I would have been 10yrs old. We moved to Adelaide in 1998 on a military exchange program and we stayed here until 2002, during that time I played ice and inline hockey in South Australia. When we moved back to Canada, we lived in Winnipeg where I played AA for the St James Canadiens. We moved back to Adelaide in 2004, and I got immediately involved with the now defunct Adelaide Avalanche and played my first AIHL game versus the Canberra Knights at 15yrs old. Since then I have played for SA/NSW at numerous National Championships, Adelaide Avalanche, Adelaide A’s and Adelaide Adrenaline (2004-2005, 2007-2011), Newcastle North Stars (2006, 2012) and Australian Teams (U18 and Mens).

CT: How did you find your first season back in Newcastle?

OM: I really enjoyed it. I was a bit worried at first having lost 3 of our first 4 games but I knew we would come together eventually.

CT: What positives did you take out of the 2012 season?

OM: Obviously we didn’t achieve the end goal of winning the Goodall Cup, but winning the Minor Premiership was a good achievement for the team, to me that shows the consistency and depth that we have. We have a big group of young players waiting to breakout into the AIHL and this season showed we aren’t far from seeing this. For me personally, I felt more mature on the ice. Being a good goaltender has a lot to do with understanding and anticipating the game and this is something I felt more comfortable with.

CT: What do you do over Summer to keep fit?

OM: Normally I would just try to stay in shape, whether it be to go for a run or have a session at the gym. Work on strength early in the summer and phase into cardio agility based training as the season approached. This year however I have opted for a completely new outlook, I joined a CrossFit box (Huddo’s Total Health) in Newcastle. It’s nothing like I have ever been exposed to before, after my first session I knew I was hooked.

CT: What do you feel the benefits of Crossfit are?

OM: I honestly think CrossFit will bring me to a level of fitness I have never achieved before. We do a lot of Strength training movements (Olympic Lifting/Powerlifting) like Squats, Clean and Jerks, and Snatches but also have a focus having great cardio, being fast, flexibility and agile. Combining all of these types of training should translate directly onto the ice and ultimately make me faster and stronger.

CT: Do you go watch any other sports during the break?

OM: Not entirely. I enjoy watching sports on TV, normally during the break I’m very focused on the NHL but being there is a lockout at the moment I haven’t been. I do still like to keep up to date with how my friends are going in their seasons. Being involved in CrossFit, if I’m not competing, I like to go watch some competitions around the area.

CT: Do you play in any Summer Hockey Competitions?

OM: This year I am playing in the local Newcastle summer season as a player. I always try to take a break from being a goaltender, it makes the upcoming season always more exciting.

CT: How does playing hockey as a player as opposed to Goal Tending benefit your game?

OM: I’m not sure really, I’m just out there to have a bit of fun with my friends. Getting scored on so much throughout the season it’s actually nice to go out and score a couple myself.

CT: When does the preparation for season 2013 begin for Olivier?

OM: Preparation has already started. I took maybe a week off after the Grand Final and have been back in the gym nearly every day since them. It’s not so much to get ready for season 2013 but more to live a healthy lifestyle. Not exercising makes me feel lethargic and I become unproductive. I will probably look at getting back onto the ice in early 2013 and go from there.

CT: Is there anyone who has been influential during your hockey career?

OM: Mitch Villani. Not only is he my best friend but also the most influential person I know. He has experienced a lifetime worth of injuries and setbacks in his hockey career to the point where he has stepped away from playing. I remember when he was selected for the National Men’s team in 2009 and not being the biggest and strongest player out there (He stands at 5’7”) and heading into Division 1 he knew that this would not work to his advantage. At this point, he had already recovered from a shoulder reconstruction, the dedication and perseverance he showed and the commitment he had to his training and the team was second to none. He was so determined to achieve results to the point where he woke up at 4am every morning to take protein, in his case a large can of Tuna, and go back to bed. When the championships came around, as a rookie earned himself a spot on the first line, showing that hard work pays off. Unfortunately, after a 3rd shoulder reconstruction and decided to walk away.

CT: How important do you think it is that players put something back into the game?

OM: Huge. The game has provided us with so much it’s only fair we give something back. A lot of players in the AIHL might take it for granted and not realise how much influence we have on others. I was having a conversation with a young player once and I asked him who his favourite team was to which he replied with Calgary Flames and stating that Iginla was his favourite player. I then asked him is Kiprusoff was his favourite goalie, he looked at me sideways and said “No! You are, your way better than he is!” The future of the AIHL is very much relied on the next generation of players, and we have a responsibility to make sure it continues.

CT: What are the goals for the 2013 season?

OM: I haven’t sat down and thought about it yet, but obviously to get back to Division 1 at Worlds in Croatia in April and win the Goodall Cup.

by Craig Tonks