– I spoke with new Trenton Titans GM Rich Lisk and exclusively to ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna after the press conference to reintroduce the team…
“It was good that I made it through (the presser) without crying. I was close. No matter where I went when I left; I went to the Soul in 2005 and did the Steel and all that, no matter what and whoever was here, I always considered this to be my team. And now, to be able to come back as managing partner and own a piece of the team, it’s a dream come true. In my world of sports, this is a dream come true. This is my team. I helped build it from what it was, and now it’s back.”
“I never really came to any (Trenton Devils) games before, because I was up in Philadelphia and stuff…and I’m trying not to focus on anything in the past. I’m focusing on the rebirth from here out. They wanted to buy a team and have a developmental team, and it’s great that worked out. We have a great relationship with them, and hopefully we will moving forward.”
“A lot of people said that (the market would be damaged by a previous team) with the Steel too, with the Lightning and stuff. I never focus on the negatives, I’m going to focus on the positives. I know what this was, I know what my abilities and my staff’s abilities are, so we’ll move forward and go forward on that one.”
“I think, in my opinion, this has got to be grassroots, grassroots, grassroots. That was our big thing with the Titans. I always talk about Scott Bertoli. I would have Scott everywhere, and I pawned him off everywhere…but that makes sense, because every rink knew him, every kid at school got read a story from Scott Bertoli and became friendly with Scott Bertoli and they’d want to see Scott Bertoli play, and there he was. I’m a big proponent of autograph sessions after games, and the guys walking through the front door of the building and signing autographs every night. This is their team. This is a community, and it has to be a community.”
“I don’t really know what (the Devils) did, I went to Scott’s ceremony and that was it, so I’ll focus on what we did. I’m bringing back a lot of the stuff that we did…we used to do “Dinner With The Titans” where I’d have people bid on having dinner with the guys, and we’d go to a restaurant and they’d sit one-on-one and they’d talk and the guys would give them a gift and things like that. Jersey auctions, where you can come on the ice and meet the player and get the jersey off their back. Any promotions…every Sunday is going to be an autograph session. I’m trying to do a deal where each Sunday is ice cream sundaes, and you can eat sundaes with the players. The booster club was huge, huge, huge for us. I’m bringing that back. We used to have dinners at these banquet halls, and the players would get to know the fans. I’m creating an advisory board of ten to 20 people strategically in the arena and around that make some sense, and they’re going to work with the front office staff. They’re going to get out in the community and be part of our staff. Those are the things we have to do to move it forward.”
“In two weeks, we got three hundred plus people on Facebook, they’ve sold over 150 season tickets, 50 partial tickets and all with no advertising, just Facebook and Twitter. We had a 150 people show up today for this press conference all within two weeks, all without ever really saying we had anything until yesterday. That, to me, is huge.”
(In regards to his comments that the organization was likely 3-4 years away from where it needs to be) “First and foremost, I think they need to re-connect with the community. The fanbase, there’s a core base of fans here, but I think they have to re-establish the roots within the community and within the schools with youth hockey. I think they have to broaden that fanbase to include a lot of entertainment fans. This is a great facility and we’re within a 30 minute drive of about three million people, so there’s tons of people out there who are casual fans who are looking for an affordable, convenient night’s entertainment. I believe this arena and this staff and the team on the ice are going to be able to make that happen.”
(On how personal this is for McKenna, given his roots in Trenton) “For me, it was personal because I was here in the beginning and I know how important the Titans were to the city back in those days. And I also know that there is a core base of fans here. We believed, from a league perspective, that there had to be hockey back here in Trenton. This is a proud day, not only for me, but for the league to have them back.”
(On why the Devils didn’t work in Trenton) “I honestly believe it just was not a high enough priority within their organization. Nothing more than that. You can look back, I guess, and dissect what happened…but at this point, I think that’s the past and we’re looking forward. From the league’s perspective, and I know from Rich’s perspective, I know it’s more important that we look at what we need to do and what they need to do moving forward to make sure this does succeed in the future.”
— Got a lot of people asking me about how the press conference went. My answer: It was a press conference. There wasn’t a whole lot of new information that came out of it…you already know that Lisk is the GM and Scott Bertoli (who received a mini-standing ovation upon his introduction) is serving as senior advisor of hockey operations and that the team will be affiliated with the Flyers. John and Eileen Martinson, successful executives, are your owners under the “Blue Line Sports, LLC” banner.
No head coach has been named…officially…yet…and there is no immediate word on any sort of player moves…officially…yet.
— From a personal standpoint, it was meaningful and I’d go as far as to say moving to see there be legitimate interest and passion about hockey in that building again. It flat out sucked covering the Trenton Devils some nights — although inarguably a great opportunity for me nonetheless — because you felt like you were working for yourself. Looking out into the stands and seeing a few dozen people some nights made it miserable at times.
To get the feeling of excitement again…and to let myself think about what it might be like to work games there in 2011-12, it was nice.
— However, it isn’t a given I’ll be back. I’ll make an announcement in regards to that one way or the other in a few weeks. I’d like to be back, leave it at that.
— Also, as for this blog…I haven’t decided what to do yet. I will, most likely, keep it intact and just re-name it. Although, there is certainly something to be said to a fresh start as well…I’ll think about that some more.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com