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K-Wings leading promotional way again with Mighty Ducks homage

Kalamazoo Wings leading promotional way again with Mighty Ducks homage Why the ’90s were the golden age for American hockey fans 10 greatest minor league hockey markets in North America
From the IHL to the UHL to the ECHL, the Kalamazoo Wings have been an exemplary minor-league hockey franchise from a marketing perspective. They will prove that again this winter by capitalizing on The Mighty Ducks' silver anniversary. (Photo by S Reyes/Getty Images)

When running an AHL or ECHL team, there is more flexibility to come up with creative promotional tactics to entice fans of all ages to attend. The Kalamazoo Wings, currently the ECHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, have embraced this idea wholeheartedly in their promotions for their games.

Just to name the top example, this West Michigan franchise is where the concept of green ice for St. Patrick’s Day originated. Beginning in 1982 during the brand’s old IHL days, the custom has continued annually through one level change and two league switches.

That ploy has spun off to the likes of orange ice on Halloween and a pink pond on Valentine’s Day. Other teams, such as the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, have since pulled similar stunts.

Fittingly, this season the Wings will also capitalize on the 25th anniversary of The Mighty Ducks with a Mighty Ducks jersey night on Dec. 22. The jerseys will feature the same basic color scheme that the protagonist team wears in the movie, with the Wings mascot Slappy in a pose much like that of the original Duck logo. The normal Wings logo will adorn the players’ shoulders.

In addition to donning these uniforms, the Wings have invited Matt Doherty, who played Les Averman in all three movies, to make an appearance.

The Wings are wise to capitalize on the success of The Mighty Ducks film franchise. But they are not the only minor-league franchise to embrace the abundant opportunities with the silver anniversary of the movie this season.

The San Diego Gulls, who happen to be the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate, already hosted a special tribute to the film on March 10. Fans received early admission to watch the movie prior to game time, and took home commemorative hats.

K-Wings leading promotional way again with Mighty Ducks homage Cincinnati Mighty Ducks Cincinnati Gardens Cincinnati Cyclones

The Cincinnati Cyclones, another IHL-turned-ECHL brand, will also pay homage to the 1992 movie this season. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

At least one other ECHL team is preparing its own Mighty Ducks celebration for this winter. One month after the Wings have their event, the Cincinnati Cyclones will make the movie the promotional centerpiece of their Jan. 27 game.

The Cyclones have not yet released as many details for their tribute as the Wings have. But it is somewhat ironic given that the Cyclones brand has a contentious history with the former AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks. The latter replaced the former at the Cincinnati Gardens after the Cyclones, then an IHL team, left for their current home, U.S. Bank Arena. Anaheim maintained its AHL base in Ohio for eight years, and today the Cyclones stand alone at a lower level.

The success of the Mighty Ducks franchise even transcends hockey. This past July witnessed “Mighty Ducks Night” for the Potomac Nationals, the Single-A affiliate of baseball’s Washington Nationals. The well-traveled Doherty made an appearance while the Nationals handed out customized Averman bobbleheads and auctioned off customized jerseys to fans.

“Delivering the best possible entertainment experience for the Potomac Nationals’ dedicated fan base inside Pfitzner Stadium at an affordable price is our number one priority,” said Potomac Nationals general manager of sales, Bryan Holland in a press release on the Nationals website. “We believe that mission has been accomplished thanks to the collective construction of what the P-Nats feel is our club’s best promotional schedule in the history of the franchise.”

Whether this entered into Holland’s decision or not, it bears mentioning that Bryce Harper, the franchise face of the Washington Nationals, is an outspoken Mighty Ducks fan. So much so that, as he once told Rolling Stone, he would rather see people honor the original than keep making more.

Back on the hockey front, San Diego and Cincinnati each have their aforementioned connections to the professional offshoots of the movies. Their Duck-themed promotions make sense on that basis. But given the movie’s milestone, it makes just as much sense in places like Kalamazoo that are reputed for raising the promotional bar.

In that vein, other teams inside the hockey world and out could serve their fans well by doing the same this year.

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