You want to really get people into a rivalry?? If you’re the NHL, you put those rivalries on Wednesday nights because that’s when people are watching hockey and that’s when every Wednesday game is a potential rivalry even when it’s not. Yet, shockingly, it can get stale and people will grow tired of it. So– how to do you spice up a rivalry??
Give it a trophy. Give it some meaning for teams meeting over and over again.
That’s why when I see something about the Wawa Sunshine Cup, I’m intrigued and wonder why more minor league teams don’t do that. The Wawa Sunshine Cup is a trophy that battled between the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears and Florida Everblades with the team who has the most standing points earned in head-to-head match-ups being the victor of it and maybe getting a sweet Built-To-Order hoagies with it. It gives some pride and meaning to playing a team around 14 times a season and make it worthwhile rather than stale. You have to wonder when they’ll include the Jacksonville IceMen to their party, but whatever.
The point is that, especially in minor league hockey where teams are facing off against each other a lot and with my whole plan of regional leagues under a big league umbrella, maybe to make things not get so dull– throw some kind of arbitrary trophy in there to make things a little more fresh in the world of hockey. I doubt this would work on the NHL level because that’s all too corporate; but the minor leagues are ripe for this stuff.
In the NCAA, hockey has plenty of rivalry trophies– like the North Star College Cup between the Minnesota D1 schools, the Holy War on Ice of Notre Dame and Boston College for the Smith-Kelley Memorial Trophy, the Battle for the Gold Pan between Denver and Colorado College, and the Beanpot, which combines the Boston colleges. Of course, college sports have a lot of tradition with gimmick trophies– as we’ve seen in the football side of things with their rivalry trophies.
(Shockingly, I’m a fan of the Crabpot Tournament because of my bias, but what can you do??)
Yet in this new era of minor league hockey where some people drone on and on about seeing the same teams over and again– why not do something like the Wawa Sunshine Cup?? Hell, the California teams in the AHL could do a lot more than not play the same amount of games as everyone else in the league and get some sponsorship for a trophy. The Texas AHL teams, all the teams cropping up in the Northeast in the ECHL could have something, the teams in the Midwest AHL or ECHL– the sky is the limit, so long as you can sell it to the sponsors.
Granted, the game today is really more about in-arena entertainment as it is the game itself, this could be a nice cross-section of branding for the company sponsoring the rivalry trophy and actually will get people into a match-up they’ve seen for the ninth time in the season. It doesn’t take much to make something like this happen, especially when it comes to bringing people into the hockey domain and really promote the brand they are trying to push. Sure, they may have the audience in the stands already– but it will also make them brand loyal when they have a choice of things. I’m sure people will hit up the Wawa more often than other convenience stores because it’s Wawa and it’s awesome, but more importantly– because they support Solar Bears or Everblades hockey. That’s the kind of advertising that’s easy and may have a lasting affect on people’s purchasing choices.