Minor League Malarkey focuses on the goofy world of minor-league hockey; from the characters to the fights to the promotions to the die-hard fans that half-fill the stands.
Please recall the waning moments of last Tuesday night's Philadelphia Flyers-Tampa Bay Lightning game. Ryan Malone is coming in on a breakaway and Scott Hartnell decides to throw his glove at the former Pittsburgh Penguins forward to distract him.
The ploy works, except that according to NHL rule, it's a penalty shot. Malone went on to miss the penalty shot, draw a penalty in overtime and watch from the box as Mike Richards won the game.
Last Friday, the Flyers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, announced "Scott Hartnell Glove & Mitten Toss" Night for their upcoming game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday.
It's another brilliant promotion brought to you by the creative minds of minor league sport marketers.
Adam Goldberg, the marketing manager for the Phantoms, was able to spend a few minutes answering my questions about how the idea materialized, Scott Hartnell's response when the idea was brought to him and what he expects Philadelphia fans to really throw at the event.
As a refresher, here's Hartnell's "glove save" against the Bolts:
Goldberg is the marketing manager for the Phantoms, directing game presentation -- clowns, magicians and jugglers -- and of putting together an advertising strategy that includes print, television and Web site marketing.
"One of the benefits of being in Philadelphia is having the NHL affiliate right across the street so I also work on creating cross- promotional programs with the Flyers," he said. "Along with the Flyers, each team in the complex has a charities foundation attached and the Flyers and Phantoms have done coat drives for Operation Warm in the past."
Our conversation with him:
PD: Is this simply an overreaction to the lack of dropping gloves on the Phantoms since Steve Downie was traded?
GOLDBERG: It is funny that you mention the glove dropping actually. We just had our "Tribute to Tough Guys Night" here and we had Dave Brown, Dave "Hammer" Schultz, Bob "Hound" Kelly and Frank "Animal" Bialowas at center ice for a ceremonial glove drop.
How soon after Scott Hartnell's glove toss last Tuesday night against Tampa Bay was this idea formed? Did you run into the office on Wednesday to start working on the promotion?
The idea was sent to me by our Director of Public Relations, Brian Smith literally 15 minutes after it happened. I was watching the game and after Richards scored the game winner I got an e-mail from Brian saying we should have a Scott Hartnell Glove Toss.
What was Hartnell's response when the idea was brought to him to get him in attendance? Was he on board from the start?
Hartnell is a great sport. He agreed to come and participate in the game and sign autographs right away. Hockey players in general have good senses of humor and can laugh off a mistake easier than others.
We know Philadelphian's have a history of throwing non-forgiving items from the stands. Do you expect a large haul of mittens, gloves, hats and scarves compared to snowballs and batteries like we've seen in the past?
We have an annual "Teddy Bear Toss" promotion (Feb. 6) so I think the idea spawned from there. Our fans rally well behind donations so I think we will have a good turn out. So far this year we have done a food drive and a donation for the troops. One of the Phantoms former players, Ben Stafford was just deployed overseas with the Marines.
What have been your favorite promotions done by the Phantoms?
We gave away a team-signed kitchen sink a couple years ago for our "Fan Appreciation Night" grand prize (the tagline was "everything including the kitchen sink," obviously).
This year we had a "Vice President Night." All children named Piper, Bristol, Trigg, Willow, Track, Beau or Hunter got in for free. All residents of Alaska and Delaware, as well as hockey moms, got in for half price. We gave lipstick to a lucky row. An Alaskan king crab dinner in the state of Delaware was given away. A mud-slinging booth was set up outside. Soapboxes were set up around the concourse along with representatives from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Any Bill Veeck-esque promotions planned for the remainder of the season?
This is the final year for the Wachovia Spectrum so we have "Decade Nights" throughout the year, which always have a Veeck feeling to them. Our best ideas are usually a spur-of-the-moment thing. Much like the Hartnell glove toss, we like to have our promotions relevant to current events.
Finally, how can fans, who may not be able to attend the game, help donate to Operation Warm?
Fans can make donations through their Web site operationwarm.org but of course we encourage all donations to be made at the Phantoms game this Sunday.
The "Hartnell Glove & Mitten Toss" night will be this Sunday, Dec. 14 at the Philadelphia Spectrum when the Phantoms host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
- Scott Hartnell