On Wednesday, the ECHL announced that commissioner Brian McKenna was stepping down from his post following the 2017-18 season. McKenna has been in that spot for 16 years and has seen the growth of the ECHL from a league where it was very few prospects and many guys on their last legs to a legit developmental league where many NHL teams place their young guns when the AHL is too full or they feel the player would be better served in a league that helps adjust to the pro game.
McKenna has seen some ups and downs, sure, but it’s been a very net gain for what McKenna has grown. The league absorbed the WCHL and CHL in his tenure, while also seeing steady growth amongst stable membership and making head-way from the West Coast to the Northeast corridor in the last couple seasons after the AHL went to their West Coast footprint. His ability to help the league geographically has been a solid work, too. Kudos for what he has done.
There has been no replacement as of yet, but I’m going to suggest one person who I think would be great for this job.
That’s right, I’m officially throwing my hat in the ring for the ECHL Board of Governors to look at when it comes to hiring their new commissioner. I know that I may not have the qualifications a normal applicant would have, but my knowledge of hockey and the business of minor league hockey could be something that should be looked at. Add that to actually seeing the fan reaction and taking those into account when talking and posting about what the league could/should/would do in different situations.
Now, let’s be honest, I’m not even in the running. The idea of a blogger/podcaster to be in such a high position is more a publicity gimmick and for a league as legitimate as the ECHL wouldn’t stoop to something so silly. Yet…there’s always a chance until there isn’t one.
I dealt first with the ECHL when the Chesapeake Icebreakers were a thing in the late 1990s, being the stickboy and around the team for a while– I saw the passion these guys had for the league and saw a lot of people outside of the players doing as much as they can in order to get to that next level. Hell, Dana Heinze is a guy I remember unloading the Johnstown Chiefs’ bus and now he’s got a couple Stanley Cup rings in Tampa and Pittsburgh.
While the business on the ice is at its top point, there’s still room to figure out what’s going to happen off the ice is still there and how to make all the teams successful. Not just the team they ice, but what they actually have in terms of other entertainment to help the fans during the stoppages in play. When I spoke with Brampton Beast President and General Manager Cary Kaplan, he said that the team didn’t market hockey, they marketed entertainment. I’d suggest going to all the member teams rinks, holding a “town hall” of sort for the boosters, fans, season ticket members– whomever– and see what’s working and what’s not working off the ice. From the in-arena promotions to what’s happening (or not happening) outside of the arena and into the cities. Adjust and adapting marketing projects could be integral to a team surviving and folding.
The ECHL is grass-roots hockey with a little bit of corporate flare. While you need the corporate side of things to keep the lights on, you also need the community support. In fact, the community support could be the biggest thing needed because sure– a team could have top of the line facilities, but if they don’t have a solid base for a support staff around them…they aren’t going to make it anywhere.
Granted, there’s some other ideas I have, but I haven’t really planned it all out. It’s a work in progress as we push towards Scotty Wazz as commissioner for the ECHL after the 2017-18 season.
….and if not commissioner, some kind of fan relations liaison to present to the Board every now and again to see what is working and what isn’t.