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An OKC hockey nickname, please!

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 6, 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a public relations genius.

But still, it’s pretty clear that the good folks with Prodigal Hockey and the new Oklahoma City minor-league hockey franchise need a little refresher in how to build on momentum.

Back on Feb. 9, we learned that Prodigal Hockey had struck a deal with the Edmonton Oilers for the NHL franchise to place its American Hockey League franchise in Oklahoma City. It was a great day for a city that has grown to love minor-league hockey. The Blazers enjoyed great success during their decades in our city, so this new franchise created quite a buzz among the city’s hockey faithful.

That same day that the agreement was announced, Prodigal Hockey announced a name-the-team contest. Fans would be able to submit their ideas for a name.

The deadline: Feb. 20.

The belief was that a team nickname would follow shortly thereafter. There’d be gear to buy. There’d be jerseys and T-shirts and hats. There’d be people wearing the stuff all over town. What better way to market this new Oklahoma City team?

But Feb. 20 came and went without any announcement about the team’s nickname. So did March 20 and April 20.

Don’t look now, but May 20 is just two weeks away, and still, we have no idea what this team will be named.

There are strong hints that it will be the Barons. A Twitter account has even popped up claiming to be the team’s official account. It’s handle — okc_barons.  Two days ago, it proclaimed that an official announcement about the team name was still a couple weeks away.

Who knows if the site or the announcement is legit?

The truth is, the franchise blew a great opportunity to build on the momentum of February. Why not get the name out there quickly? Why not build the brand? Why not get people thinking about buying tickets and coming to games and being a part of hockey in Oklahoma City again?

I’m sure what happened, in part, was that the team got delayed in the announcement — these sorts of things have to be vetted by the parent organization, the league and all sorts of other folks – and suddenly, everyone looked around and realized that Thundermania was in full swing. Rather than try to compete with the NBA team, they decided to sit on the announcement. Wait until the season was over. Refuse to let the Thunder steal their, well, thunder.

It was a bad decision, and after the Thunder made the playoffs, it became an even worse one. The franchise has lost weeks and weeks that it could’ve been out there building on the momentum that came with the announcement in February. Hockey fans were on fire then. Even the casual fans were feeling the heat. But the franchise stood by and let the flames die out.

Maybe there are still some embers that can be stoked, but it’s sure going to take more work than it should’ve for the franchise to get the fire rekindled.

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by Jenni Carlson
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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