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 :: lasvegassun.com 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