ECHL Commissioner McKenna Talks Trenton, Johnstown, Etc.

I just got off the phone with ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna, who was very gracious to respond to my interview request made earlier this morning.

As you may know, McKenna was the general manager and president of the-then Trenton Titans from their inception through the 2001-02 season, so the capital city certainly holds a special place in his heart.  While my initial request was regarding how Johnstown’s departure affected the league — we’ll get to that — I couldn’t help but ask him a few questions about the state of the Trenton franchise.

“Like a lot of markets, Trenton has suffered in this current economy,” McKenna told me.

“But I still believe the Trenton market is a good one.  The Devils have made some changes that will have a positive impact on the upcoming season, and my feeling is that you’ll see attendance trend in a positive direction in the 2010-11 season.”

Perhaps a bigger question is whether or not Trenton will even have an ECHL franchise next season, with rumors abound that the Devils organization may move their AHL affiliate here thanks to Lowell’s lease agreement running out after this season.

McKenna said there absolutely will be an ECHL franchise in Trenton next season, and that teams were required to make their commitments to play the 2010-11 season at the mid-season meetings that started in Ontario several weeks ago.

Several other things became official as a result of those meetings.  For starters, McKenna confirmed that the ECHL is definitely going into next season with 19 teams.

“Anything that happens with expansion or anything like that would, at this point, be for the 2011-12 season,” he said.

He anticipates division realignment as the result of Johnstown moving to Greenville, but that may not be finalized until the playoffs come around or perhaps later.  It’s a possibility that the American Conference will contract to 11 teams, and that Greenville will go to the National Conference.

It also seems possible that there may be a bit more variety in the schedule next season, as some teams may be willing to come east to play a handful of games, and vice versa.

As for the Chiefs leaving, that also has a direct impact on Trenton, who has served as a long-time rival to Johnstown.  But it has a much greater impact on the history of the league, as the Chiefs were the only remaining charter franchise in the now 22-year-old organization.

“To a certain extent, it’s a sad day,” McKenna said.

“With all the tradition in Johnstown, it was disappointing to see them go.  But there was also a certain inevitability to it.  We as a league knew for several years that they had struggled.”

However, with the team not completely going away and Charlotte getting “called up” to the AHL, it still leaves the ECHL with 19 relatively healthy teams.

“We’ve been very cautious after coming out of last year,” McKenna said.

“We hoped we’d come into next year with 20 teams, but one of our teams was able to move up, which is positive both for us and the evolution of hockey in the area.  Of course, we were disappointed to see Charlotte go, but it’s a positive thing.”

He also pointed towards bringing Toledo back and bringing Kalamazoo in as positives for the long-term health of the league.

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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14 Responses to “ECHL Commissioner McKenna Talks Trenton, Johnstown, Etc.”

  1. Titans04 Says:

    Mike did he also say the check is in the mail?

    Promises at this time of year don’t mean sh*t, never have never will.

    Did you wet yourself when he mentioned the “changes” the Devils were making that were going to increase attendance next year? I’m betting not even a hint to a signle one of those changes, correct?

    Maybe a couple gallons of Kool aid and 3-4 cans of red spray paint?

  2. tdevils Says:

    What else can he really say though, you know? And I know they’ve brought in a new ticketing director and I believe someone in marketing as well. I assume that’s what he’s alluding to.

  3. Titans04 Says:

    That’ll do it. We’re good.

    Did the guy that handed out the pizza’s during the breaks in the action walk away recently?

  4. chiarams Says:

    Thanks Mike – pretty much what I would have expected, but at least he’s putting the BS out there.

  5. hotkey Says:

    hey Mike-

    This is off topic but…
    Reading through old posts from last seaon and did you ever tell what the Henkel quote was for last year’s team?? It’s bothering me!

  6. titans04 Says:

    who?

  7. Shtikl Says:

    http://www.prohockeynews.com/hockey/publish/pops_ryan/The_Iron_Man_of_golden_heart.shtml

    #11, there goes our hero…

  8. Ashmore Says:

    I’ll just post the audio when I get back to the arena…remind me.

  9. JohnnyR Says:

    A couple questions…1) How strong a possibility is it that the AHL franchise would/could land in Trenton ? How much time remains on the T-Devils lease in Trenton ?? anyone ??

  10. Trentondevilsfan Says:

    Well, it’s good that they’ve brought some people on board in areas they desperately need help in. It won’t be fixed in a day.

    Is is possible to be hopeful yet skeptical?

    Supposedly they signed a 10 year extension, is that right?

    My feeling is it’s pretty much set we’ll see ECHL Devils hockey here next year. Past that I’ve no idea.

    I think it’s realistic, with a proper budget and staffing, to bump the actual (not reported) attendance to about 3k a game top end. That’s with aggressive discounting and group courting; not bust out retail ticket pricing. But the thing is…if you can get 1500 at regular pricing with current staffing/marketing budget, and 3000 with half price tickets and aggressive (more expensive) marketing…..what do you do, from the usual short term bottom line perspective?

    I’m just throwing easy-math numbers out there to make the point.

    It’d be cool to see the AHL here. But really, as long as there’s live hockey at the arena I’ll be glad.

  11. chiarams Says:

    But of those 1,500, how many are actually paid?

    You have to figure at least half of those are freebies or trade offs for advertising.

    I would guess season ticket numbers are in the 500 range.

  12. Trentondevilsfan Says:

    I don’t have any idea how many are freebies already. I would love to know how many paid non plan tickets they sell. I mean we’ve brought people, and those around us have, but most are using vouchers (not all though).

  13. chiarams Says:

    Ditto – I’d love to know how many paid tickets they get on a nightly basis. And how many seats are “double-counted” – STH tickets that get redeemed for another seat later in the season.

  14. Section 106, Row F Says Says:

    Substantial incentive discounts to the STH crowd(10% is do-able), run more promotional nights and offer quantity discounts for 4 or more tix per game at the box office.

    Show SOME appreciation to the hockey fans.

    Oh, yeah….and get Kowalsky (or Williams) thrown out of a few more games. THAT GETS PRESS, ANIMATES THE TEAM AND SELLS TICKETS.

    It’s not rocket science. It’s called marketing an under-marketed product.

    (OT-What IS Williams job anyway? I thought he was “assistant coach” – which typically means DEFENSIVE COACH, but I’m not seeing that)

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