At “Fan Fest 2016” Sunday, attended by an estimated crowd of 3,000 people including many state and local VIPs, Worcester’s ECHL franchise owner Cliff Rucker revealed the franchise would be known as the Railers, and unveiled the team’s logo. The Railers are scheduled to begin play in October of 2017 at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts.
As with the press conference that announced the new franchise, there was a significant amount of media coverage about the happenings at the event surrounding the nickname and logo unveiling, so once again I’ve decided to instead to blog about it from a different perspective. Unlike the press conference where I was just an attendee at Fan Fest I was a volunteer, working alongside the organization to help make the event a success. And it would be hard to call what took place anything other than a complete success.
As with any event this size there was a large number of volunteers needed, and many answered the call. While some were from the Booster Club, a large amount of relatives and friends of Railers President Toby O’Brien also were on hand. Thinking about it, it shouldn’t be surprising that his family came out in droves to help. At every media opportunity both O’Brien and Rucker stress family and community, and the people who I’ve previously talked to that had have known either for any length of time say that’s exactly how the live their lives. Now that I have seen it first hand, I agree.
By the time the doors opened to the public just before 1pm this mish-mash of volunteers made the current three man front office team look like a huge organization that had been in business for years. With everyone decked out in “staff” t-shirts covering polo shirts that contained the as-of-yet announced name and logo, the pre-event gathering with O’Brien and Community Development Vice President Mike Myers really set the tone for the day as both were excited for this major event.
After a round of introductions everyone was given their assignments, which for the boosters was pretty much what we usually do at hockey events: man our table, hand out whatever the give-away is (in this case, wooden train whistles after the name was announced), and be ready to help where it might be needed. Fan Fest basically went off without a hitch, so we got to do a lot of people watching.
As silly as it sounds, that people watching proved how successful this event really was. While the “usual suspects” of Worcester hockey were in attendance the sheer volume of people that none of us boosters had ever seen before was mind boggling. Many came to the booster club table to join the club, saying they were planning to buy season tickets for the Railers even though they had only been to a couple WorSharks or IceCats games in the past. That’s the market the Railers really need to tap into, and they hit a vein of them on Sunday.
The vibe from the crowd was overwhelmingly positive, and other than the expected amount of people saying “it should have been IceCats” the Railers named was well received. The logo, which looks real nice in print, really shines on the merchandise. A quick scan of social media and hockey forums also shows a very high percentage of positive comments, something that virtually never happens when a new logo is released. Add all that to the long lines at the merchandise stand after the Railers name was announced I’d say Rucker has a winner here.
The highlight of Fan Fest for me was meeting Commissioner Emeritus of the ECHL Patrick Kelly. There’s a small bio of him on ECHL.com, but that really doesn’t tell you what kind of person Pat Kelly is. Allow me to tell you: the ECHL absolutely couldn’t have a better ambassador for their league than Pat Kelly. He was unbelievably wonderful in Worcester Sunday, taking picture after picture with the Kelly Cup (ECHL’s championship trophy named for him) and signing autographs for anyone that asked. He could not have possibly been more gracious.
Before the event the Railers were a third of the way toward their season ticket goal and nearly half toward their sponsorship numbers without having a sales staff in place. Now with a name and logo in place, and a couple of new employees starting this week, signs are looking positive for Rucker and his organization.
Now if he could only figure out how to make it not snow on the days of his team’s big events, he’ll have everything covered.