Minor league hockey makes the most of promotional jersey nights

I love minor league hockey, or more exactly, I love minor league hockey promotions.

I especially love the ECHL. The ECHL was once called the East Coast Hockey League, but with a team in Alaska, they realized their name was a bit of a misnomer, and shortened the name to simply ECHL. Yes, just letters. That kind of chutzpah I not only respect, but adore.

Within the ECHL, teams move about somewhat frequently. Though there have been some mainstays in their history, since its inception in 1988, there are 43 defunct, moved, or suspended teams. This includes the Erie Panthers, one of the league’s inaugural teams, which moved to British Columbia to become the Victoria Salmon Kings in 1996.

This league is not afraid of realizing when an investment has gone bad, addressing the situation, and moving on, unlike a certain NHL commissioner and a southwest-based team.

There are many bush-league things that I would never want to see in the NHL, but these are the minor leagues. There’s a market for zany antics that would never fly in the big show, and these guys exploit it. They do minor league things, and are darn proud of it. Perhaps that’s what I respect so much. Unlike many Junior leagues, they admit what they are without trying to pass themselves off as something that they’re not.

The best example of this has to be one-time-use specialty jerseys, which are almost always auctioned off for charity following the games. Two teams excel at these: California’s Bakersfield Condors and the Las Vegas Wranglers. Both teams rock rather conservative jerseys during their regular games, but do they love to play dress-up. (Sneak Peak, there’s a news story at the end involving what could be the most hilarious promotion yet, so keep reading and clicking.)

Take, for instance, Rod Blagojevich Prison Jersey Night in early 2009. Neither team has any connection to the disgraced Illinois Governor, but they had fun at his expense anyway. Las Vegas wore old-school gray and black prison stripes, Bakersfield wore modern orange prison garb (the beauty is in the details, ILGOV or DOC and each player’s number are included in the small white nametag on the front). The best part, the refs wore blue prison-guard uniforms! Combine that with an atmosphere which included bars on the penalty boxes and goal judges in 18th century judge robes and wigs, and that had to be a fun night. Don’t believe me?

Bakersfield wore Michael Jackson Tribute Jerseys shortly after his death, with, get this, each player wearing one white glove. You can’t make this stuff up!

Moving around to other leagues, just about every team does some sort of pink promotion for Breast Cancer Awareness, with pink jerseys, and sometimes, pink ice. I know Penn State Behrend had this promotion at some time, as did our own women’s hockey team and the Erie Otters. It goes to a good cause, so how can anyone really be upset by this? Especially when it isn’t the NHL? Here’s some photos of recent pink action.

Many teams will offer up camouflage jerseys to support the troops, including our own Erie Otters (saw one of those jerseys at the MIC this weekend, Kudos to the man who won that auction). No, not this auction, but this does have a nice photo of the jersey.

But Bakersfield again does one better, Pearl Harbor Day jersey, which I would have loved to have seen on the ice.

The Canadians also go all-out for Remembrance Day (our equivalent of Memorial Day and the British Armistice Day), which I can say that I have the utmost respect for (and it creates some really classy sweaters). Listed here: Kitchener Rangers OHL 2009:

Don Cherry Night, which was also benefitting the Canadian Military, is also epic, care of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

Teams have dyed the ice green for St. Patrick’s Day, and orange for Halloween, and gone nuts with all of these great promotions. How can you not love it?

The Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL did a salute to Brewers’ announcer Bob Uecker by wearing this monstrosity, but it has such charm!

But I do pity the Quad City Mallards players for having to wear this, Arrrrrgh!

The Kalamazoo K-Wings of the IHL had a whole McDonalds night, complete with yellow ice (you don’t want to eat this yellow ice either, one would imagine).

The Missouri Mavericks even had a Harry Truman jersey night! Learn history while watching hockey, I love it!

…and I didn’t even mention the Las Vegas Wranglers’ Over-18 Night, complete with adult dancing lessons. You’re on your own for a link, Google it and click any link from sports.yahoo.com, preferably Puck Daddy’s blog.

Apparently the CHL’s Topeka Scarecrows held a séance to summon Elvis Presley’s ghost. It failed, but apparently it sold tickets.

The Indianapolis Ice held a Valentine’s Day event where couples could get married between periods. Nine new couples got wed, and they had to limit the renewing of vows at 50 couples (I really wish I had a photo to go with this!).

For those of you still reading this conglomerate of minor league shenanigans, the Las Vegas Wranglers have stepped it up a notch, and boy is it an extreme one. They are doing a salute to Girl Scouts of America by, you guessed it, wearing Girl Scout tribute jerseys. The sash, the badges, the puns that could be so much fun (I love Puck Daddy’s comment about calling the puck a “thin mint” all night). No offense to the Girl Scouts and all, but these are grown men playing hockey wearing a replica of a Girl Scouts uniform! What could be sillier?

But that silliness is what makes it so great! All of those have good causes behind them… ok, probably not all of them, but a decent amount of them. The Girl Scouts are a perfect example of that. Bravo, minor league hockey! You do what people secretly want to do without disgracing the big leagues. It has to be more fun down in the minors, and I can tell you, if I were ever lucky enough to get a job with a team keen on promotions, the puns would be out in force, and I can tell you, I’d love every minute of it.