By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor & Publisher
Heritage Hall was packed and the Calgary Flames made the most of their first turn in the spotlight as they introduced both themselves, personally, and Glens Falls’s new Adirondack Hockey League team in a media event last Friday at the Civic Center.
“I’ve never seen so much excitement at a press conference as I’ve seen today,” said Mayor Jack Diamond.
“Well, this is a hockey crowd,” declared Brad Treliving, the general manager of the parent NHL team.
Mr. Treliving isn’t just a hockey executive, he’s a former player who battled on the Civic Center ice.
He told the throng, “I used to hate like hell coming in here. It was a miserable place to play as an opponent. It was a loud place to play. And we’re going to get it back to that next year.”
If Mr. Treliving embodies raw hockey passion, Brian Petrovek, introduced as the Adirondack Flames president who will run Calgary’s Glens Falls operation, was polished and articulate, befitting his own heritage not just as an All-American goalie but one who did it at Harvard.
He hit the ground running. “We intend to have a lot of fun in the way we activate our brand in this community,” he said. He said, “Our approach will be fans first,” and said the team’s purpose is to “create lasting memories.”
He said, “Season ticket plans will go on sale this afternoon at 2 o’clock,” that the box office would be open 2 to 5 that day, 9 to 1 the next day and 9 to 5 weekdays starting Monday. “Opening night is only 147 days away.”
The feel was of a major-league organization, clicking on every cylinder, a far cry from the departed Phantoms.
It reminded me of the Adirondack Red Wings’ glory days here. The fact that parent Detroit ran that team just as parent Calgary will run the Adirondack Flames is hugely significant. Sports is a big-time business now. You can’t be rinky-dink. Keen eye on opportunity and the bottom-line. Mr. Petrovek noted, “The amount of merchandise sold by the Phantoms was encouraging to us.”
Mayor Diamond fairly credited the Brooks brothers “for resurrecting hockey in Glens Falls, New York.” They operated their Phantoms team here for five years while a permanent home in Allentown, Pa., was being built.
But they were a tenant — not a buyer into the market.
Mr. Petrovek assured the crowd the Flames are intent on a “long-term relationship.” He’s got the know-how, having run Utica’s AHL Devils in the late 1980s and the Pirates in Portland, Maine, for the past 12 years. “I consider myself blessed to move to this community and complete the hat trick in Glens Falls,” he told the crowd.
The Flames even had their Website — www.adirondack flames.com — up and running.
There’s a telling story in that. Later conversation led me to find out that Ed Bartholomew — the president of EDC Warren County — had his son purchase the adirondackflames.com domain name a week earlier, even before the deal with Calgary was finalized. He said he wanted to make sure someone else didn’t grab it, just in case.
It’s the kind of move that a shrewd economic development czar might think of, and no one was begrudging both former Mayor Ed and current Mayor Jack the acclaim they basked in all day on Friday.
Mr. Petrovek indicated that he first got to know Ed and Jack when he was still with Portland, shopping for a different rink. “From the beginning,” he told the crowd, “their openness, their honesty, their commitment to get to a solution, their passion to get an American Hockey League team here” impressed him. “So, Ed and Jack, thank you again.”
Mr. Treliving said, “Our team will be built on three pillars. Number-one — up-tempo and entertaining style” so that attending a game will have “value regardless of the outcome.” He said, “Number-two, we run it as a business. Number-three, community service is a requirement….It’s a part of our DNA.”
He noted that as a Canadian team, Calgary has a hockey-mad fan base. He said that’s what appeals to him about Glens Falls. “The sport matters here,” he said, so that their up and comers will get the taste of a pressure environment. “Our players are gonna know their path to Calgary is going through Glens Falls,” he said. “…I can guarantee you will have a team to be proud of.”