Erie to be filled with Monster excitement
By Matt Pawlikowski
Published Jan. 31, 2007
It was dark. It was Eerie. There was fog, and then
suddenly, emerging from the murky waters, well actually movie screen,
emerged Cleveland’s newest pro sports team, the Lake Erie Monsters.
Dan Gilbert to help debut the new team identity were Francois Giguere,
Colorado Avalanche executive vice president and general manager;
Jim Mill, AHL vice president of hockey operations; Len Komoroski,
Cavaliers/Quicken Loans Arena president; and Kerry Bubolz, Cavaliers/Quicken
Loans Arena executive vice president of corporate sales, broadcasting
and minor league operations.
“It has always
been this organization’s goal to have our own independent farm team
where we coould develop prospects with our philosophy,’’ said Giguere.
“Cleveland is committed to building a strong hockey team, and we’re
looking forward to being a part of that effort.
played a key role in the former IHL team Lumberjacks’ success, will
serve as the Monsters’ president while Randy Domain will serve as
their vice president and chief operating officer.
owner Dan Gibert speaks with media after the press conference
announcing the new AHL team for Cleveland. (Photo by Kevin Kelley)
Gilbert says that Komorski, also an avid hockey fan,
who plays the game, was instrumental in landing the Avalanche as
“He was the
lead on this, and also worked with Colorado,’’ said Gibert. “ The
owner of the Avalance also owns the Nuggets, so we knew each other
from that, and he runs very good teams.”
There was speculation
that the team would be called the Cleveland Walleye, and Gilbert
admitted so. But he said through some focus groups and old
press clippings they were able to come up with the name.
When they originally presented the Walleye to me, I did the eye
roll thing,” Gilbert said. “And it actually had an interesting theme
to it, but no use going into that now Monsters is it, and I think
it’s a breakout name, considering you had similar names for so long.”
is an avid hockey fan, and has a son who plays on a premier travel
team, joked about the fact there actually is a Monster of some sort
in the Lake.
Gilbert said. “Some Clevelanders have confided in me. Don King (the
boxing promoter) told me that’s how his hair got like that.”
While the Barons,
who were the San Jose Sharks’ top affiliate, failed and moved to
Massachusetts, along with several other teams, including the Lumberjacks,
the philosophy to attract a broader range of fans with the name
Lake Erie instead of Cleveland is the hope.
is the idea,’’ said Gilbert. “A lot of towns in between the bigger
cities have big big hockey fans, and we wanted everyone to feel
they were a part of it, and its just such a natural to have that
lake, so Lake Erie worked out pretty well.”
Hockey has been
a hard sell in the city, but there is a strong history dating back
as charter members of the AHL in the 1930’s, and after the Barons
left town last year Gilbert began looking at options.
“I would get
a lot of email, but it’s hard to gauge just how much interest there
is yet,’’ Gilbert says. “But when I walk through town, people always
seem to mention, ‘hey what is up with the hockey team?’”
Loans guru was quick to mention that although he wasn’t sure how
long it would take to get a team to town, he and other officials
began to look as soon as the Barons’ lease was up.
“I’m very happy
that we were able to get one within the year,’’ said Gilbert. ‘’We
weren’t sure we were going to be able to make it. We’ve got some
people inside this organization who really love it, and we’re real
excited to have a pro team here.”
One thing that made that task easier was the fact
the blueprint for success was already there with Cavs management
“Cleary you have the arena already there, so that
was No. 1,” said Gilbert. “ And the second thing is the marketing
staff, the operations, the accounting and arena people were already
here. It’s definately a leverage of a situation, but also not like your
going to go out, and the AHL is going to be this massive money maker.
We’re really doing it more for the city, and to bring more excitement
to our arena.”
Buboltz is also excited about the team, and says that
he believes this team will have success because of what the organization
is going to bring with it. Unlike the Barons, who drew horribly,
he believes that fans will embrace the product if they present it
to them well.
“It is one of the largest in the country for hockey
from pee wee to high school, and a lot of people don’t know that,’’
said Buboltz.”It’s grass roots hand-to- hand combat in regards
to building a relationship throughout the community, they are a
loyal group, and they will come and support it, but we have to give
them the value and show them that they are important to us.”
that Monster hockey would be family oriented.
“There are a
lot of hockey enthusiasts, but not enough to really make it what
you want to make it,’’ Gilbert said. “So you have to also add the
entertainment component, and make it fun for everyone, the hockey
fan, people who are becoming hockey fans, and even people who just
enjoy the whole night out. So we are going to be really family focused.”