Five For Writing, Volume I, Issue V


In May 1993, we got our exclusive six-month agreement from Onondaga County and we were off and running. Literally.


Every night, sometimes as late as 10 p.m. – the kids weren’t too anxious to get to sleep – Vance would drive from his home in Bellmore on Long Island to my house, a town away in East Meadow, and we would hit the road. Six, sometimes seven days a week. It didn’t matter if it was raining, 90 degrees or, in the winter and the streets were covered in ice, we were getting our miles in.  


There were nights we’d run for 90 minutes or up to two hours but, quite frankly, we were too busy planning how we’d operate our team to even realize how far we’d gone and for how long.


The AHL gave us a pretty strict set of guidelines for attracting an affiliate. And they let us know if we strayed from those rules that our franchise application would not be looked upon favorably.


The criteria was as follows:


Stay away from any NHL team with an existing AHL partnership.

Focus on NHL teams who had their players with an IHL franchise.

Look at NHL owned AHL teams.


Understand this, and this is no knock against the league, the AHL did virtually nothing to assist us in getting a franchise. They had their requirements for markets and ownership groups, but the league offered no guidance as to which specific organizations, or executives within those teams, we should approach.


But we had a game plan. And a good one. We were sports marketing guys who had promoted boxing world title fights, the Olympics, the World Cup and many of the biggest brands in the world. Before personally approaching prospective teams we set out to promote our ownership group and the Syracuse market.


At the time, about half the teams in the league were NHL owned and the remaining independent teams were owned and operated by former players or successful local business guys. They were implementing marketing 101 programs, which is what they were accustomed to – and the fans didn’t seem to mind – but it was the same old, same old.


So it was important for the hockey world, and equally important for the Syracuse community, to know there was a potential ownership group out there that planned to turn “business as usual” on its head. We wanted them to know everything about us – and our plans – prior to any formal introduction. Our plan worked.


Now that we had self-created “credibility,” it was time to hit the streets. We were Brooklyn guys after all, so this was going to be the fun part. Or was it?


Our hit list included the following NHL teams:


Detroit (which owned the AHL Adirondack franchise)

Quebec (owners of the AHL franchise in Cornwall)

New York Islanders (players on the IHL team in Salt Lake City)

Tampa Bay (players in IHL Cleveland).


Notice that the team we eventually affiliated with doesn’t appear on this initial list. I’ll get into that and other inside stories in the next column.


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