The ECHL's Bakersfield Condors may not have won any championships since their inception in 1995, but if rings were handed out for promotional ideas they would own plenty.
On top of previous promotions honoring Michael Jackson and Charlie Sheen, and their most recent attention-grabbing contract offer to Justin Bieber, the Condors have ruffled some feathers with their latest attempt to put butts in the seats at Rabobank Arena.
On Dec. 27th, Bakersfield will host the Stockton Thunder, a team that once saw its logo on the bottom of plungers thanks to the Condors. The promotion for that game? It's "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night".
From the Condors:
Condorstown isn't bankrupt, but Stockton is. They're in town and we're going to show them just how much we're rolling in the dough by giving away a Rolls Royce to a select few and $1 Million Dollars to EVERYONE in attendance. Maybe a Stockton fan will win and can donate it back to their city to help them out. Or sell the Rolls Royce for a few extra bucks. We're all about lending a helping hand in Condorstown.
(UPDATE: The Condors announced on Tuesday that they've changed the promo night to "Boomtown Bakersfield", still featuring "$1 million" and "Rolls Royce" giveaways, but also offering a buy one get one free ticket offer for the public, including those from Stockton. "We don't take ourselves too seriously," said Team President Matthew Riley via the team's website. "The promotion was never meant to poke fun at those who are struggling due to Stockton's financial situation. So that this promotion isn't further misinterpreted, we want to put the focus of the night to highlight the city of Bakersfield's success and the continued growth of the city.")
No, $1 million will not actually be handed out, just fake $1 million bills. Also, we imagine the "Rolls Royce" up for grabs might be in the form of a Matchbox car.
This, naturally, did not go over well with the people of Stockton. The reaction has been harsh and there have been calls for a boycott of the game. Condors team president Matt Riley apologized if anyone took the promotion too seriously, and told the Bakersfield Californian that the team may offer Stockton city employees a 2-for-1 ticket deal to the game.
Dan Chapman, owner of the Thunder sent a message to fans last Wednesday via the team's Facebook page expressing his disappointment.
Thunder Fans -
Earlier today the Bakersfield Condors announced a promotion they are having on December 27th called "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night" when they host the Thunder. We are deeply saddened that a fellow member of our own league would stoop to such a low level to try and gain publicity or sell tickets. For those of us who live in Stockton, many of us for years and years, these are difficult and painful times. But I know Stocktonians and I know Thunder fans and we will eventually get through this and come out of it even stronger.
Rest assured that our organization knew nothing about this disgraceful promotion and needless to say we do not support it. We strive for a first class organization and we have first class fans. We will drop the puck exactly one month from today and we can't wait to see each and every one of you. Go Thunder!!
Stockton Thunder Professional Hockey Team
The Condors said they received the blessing of Chapman for the promotion over the summer, but never provided the email blessing to local paper, The Record, when asked. Chapman told the team they didn't need his OK to run the promotion, saying, "I'm not here to build the Bakersfield Condors' promotional calendar."
Good-natured ribbing with logo'd plungers is one thing, but is poking fun at the despair of your rivals' city something that should be left to fans up in the cheap seats and not backed by the team themselves?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy