Bulls Marketing Top-Notch; Will Team Eventually Follow Suit?

The San Francisco Bulls had a lot going for them during their inaugural regular season. A cool mascot (Rawhide), a legendary building (the Cow Palace), and a three month headstart being the only game in town (thanks to the NHL lockout). Arguably more important than all three assets combined, the Bulls had a cutting edge marketing campaign which excelled at getting their product’s name out there. The Moo Crew and the bevy of brunette beauties known as the Belles (note my excellent use of alliteration there) stampeded through the Bay Area at various events. Television commercials had an irreverent sense of fun. Theme nights helped garner interest from folks who might not normally be found at a hockey game i.e. Star Wars Night. Nerds lap up the chance to attend a sanctioned event where they can dress up in goofy costumes without the threat of being derided verbally or physically. My personal favorite was the LGBT Night on March 23 against the Thunder. The entire arena was moved when Stockton’s mascot Thor (to nobody’s surprise) came out of the closet, tears streaming down his face.

SWM (single white male/mascot) seeks same for casual encounter or long-term commitment. No fatties.

SWM (single white male/mascot) seeks same for casual encounter or long-term commitment. No fatties.

I myself intended on participating in the inaugural “Wrangle-a-Date” speed dating night until work interrupted my plans. I was able to attend the 2nd date wrangle (as a mere fan, not a participant)and found it to be a fun idea. During breaks in the action, Bulls players and Cow Belles spoke in taped segments about what their ideal date would be. The sound system was quite muddled, but if I am not mistaken, Annlysa said she would like to be whisked away to… the country of Spain?!! Don’t get me wrong, Annalysa is (to use the vernacular of hip-hop artists) a dime piece for sure. That being said, the small amount of common sense left in my vodka-addled brain tells me the substantial amount of cash this sort of outing would entail could be wiser spent on a down payment for a house or Bulls season tickets.

If I looked like Cow Belle Annalysa, I'd be high-maintenance too.

If I looked like Cow Belle Annalysa, I’d be high-maintenance too.

The one department where the Bulls come up short is in their ability to play hockey. When the product one is ostensibly selling is well-played hockey, that leads to problems. San Francisco finished tied for 21st out of 23 teams in victories. While they did make the playoffs (earlier tonight they lost handily 5-1 in game one of their first-round series against the Alaksa Aces), so did every other team in the West except for the bottom-feeding Bakersfield Condors. Celebrating sneaking into the final spot in the Western Conference ECHL dance is a bit like congratulating your dim-witted son for getting a D+ on his report card. In shop class.

Coach Curcio is quick to note that the Bulls are a first year expansion team, and the only one out of four to reach the post-season. This is true. In the Bay Area, however, there is no shortage of winning products for consumers to dump their sports dollars into. As the season progressed, I had a more and more difficult time convincing friends to make the trek to San Francisco when so many games had ended in non-competitive blowouts.

All indications are that the Bulls v Aces series will be a 4 game bloodbath. I’m no fair-weather fan, and one has to go through the bad times to appreciate the good. I’ll be attending at least one of the games at home, and would be overjoyed to be proven wrong. Hopefully Heemskerk or Nelson can stand on their head one night and at least take the series to five games. And if not, I can take solace in the fact that whether the game is a thing of beauty or a travishamockery (travesty/sham/mockery), a night of hockey at the Cow Palace is a guaranteed fun time for all thanks to the hard-working folks behind the scenes.


Bull Droppings 2: More News and Notes

With the announcement that the NHL lockout is over and the San Jose Sharks season will be in full swing a month from now, we can officially announce the Bay Area’s honeymoon with the San Francisco Bulls is over. Beginning with the Thirsty Thursday tilt against the Idaho Steamheads, the Bulls will no longer be the sole option for hockey fans in Nothern California. How severe will the drop-off in attendance be? My guess will be minimal, as hockey lovers continue to welcome a low-cost alternative to Team Teal. The homespun atmosphere, Cow Belle ice girls, and more accessible players are three assets unique to the Cow Palace inhabitants. For a fun night out that doesn’t break the bank you can’t go wrong with minor league hockey.


mitchell bulls
I was in attendance for the much-hyped debut of former San Jose Shark Torrey Mitchell, one of 2032 who attended the Wednesday night game. Mitchell scored the team’s first goal and the weekday crowd went wild. I was too busy shoveling 2-For-1 hot dogs into my gaping maw to stand up and cheer (see photo below) but you couldn’t have asked for a better start to a game.

Unfortunately, the Bulls lost 2-1 in a shootout. The ECHL shootout goes 5 rounds, not 3, and had they adhered to NHL shootout rules the Bulls would have won the game. Alas, it was not to be. Goaltender Taylor Nelson is improving in leaps and bounds after taking over the reins from injured Thomas Heemskirk.


Forward Dean Ouellet has been scoring at a feverish clip for the SF Bulls (17 goals, 14 assists) and the ECHL league office has taken notice, making him a 2012 All-Star. Can a call-up to Worcester be far behind? It should be interesting to see how the Bulls deal with what will now be an ever-changing lineup with the major league players back to work.

Unfairly maligned by (pure conjecture here) bitter post-menopausal women, the Cow Belles took this in stride and have been phenomenal ambassadors for the fledgling franchise. Easily dismissed as eye candy, these girls are impeccable skaters themselves and do a great job of keeping energy up during lulls in the game. Belle Annalysa performed admirably in an on-air interview during Comcast Home Network’s telecast of a game late last month (see stolen photo below). God bless professional hockey players, but most have the charisma of a piece of aged driftwood. A young, well-spoken and attractive promoter can be a godsend in a cluttered marketplace. Follow all things Cow Belle at their new Facebook fan page here: http://www.facebook.com/sfcowbelles

Bulls Opening Night Redux

The San Francisco Bulls returned last night from what seemed to be a month-long road trip to take on the Stockton Thunder. NHLer Theo Peckham was in full Bulls regalia, and Sharks favorite Ryane Clowe was behind the bench as the Bulls prepared to stem a six-game (I think… info was not readily available on the web and, not being paid to keep this site up, my interest in research is lax to say the least) losing streak. The Beast From the East seemed fired up behind the bench, and appeared to be very into the game. In this picture, we see him focused on the action to the left of Bulls head coach, general manager, team president, and program vendor Pat Curcio.

The crowd of 6,024 was more subdued for this game. There was much to cheer for, as the team rolled to a 4-1 win behind the stellar netminding of Thomas Heemskerk. Fans were into the action as a respite from the NHL lockout, which is close to dragging into its third month. The on-ice product took a major leap forward from the slow, lethargic play the Bulls put forth on the road. It really does seem like the players feed off the energy of the home crowd.

As a partial season ticket holder (the 12-pack flex pak) I had great seats for $24, 2 bucks lower than the regular admission price to sit in the dress circle. I invited my two fat friends (see picture below) and felt petite as a Disney princess stuffed between the two behemoths. As usual, Steve spent most of the game dicking around on his smart phone and ignoring the on-ice action. Our generation has the attention span of a fruit fly, and our nation is doomed.

Whether this victory is just an pleasant abberation, or a sign that the Bulls are starting to gel as a team, is yet to be seen. I sure do hope it is the latter. With Team Toro already #5 in league attendace, I could definitely see them making huge strides in fan base if the NHL lockout continues. For diehard hockey fans, especially those who love the idea of spending a night out cheering on a bunch of blue-collar players still chasing the dream of playing in the National Hockey League, the Bulls are top-notch. Great value, great concessions, great venue. The Ice Girls dancing around to Nine Inch Nails’ track “Closer” wasn’t too shabby either. Next game I attend, I hope to see Ryane Clowe in uniform and laying down checks. Or purchasing life insurance from Pat Curcio, who will be selling reasonable plans for all income groups between periods, adjacent to the Chuck-a-Puck kiosk


Bull Droppings- News and Notes

  • The NHL cancelled the Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto (an event I was planning on at least attempting to attend), moving one step closer to a season-long lockout. To quote @DownGoesBrown on Twitter, “Go ahead, cancel the WC. Cancel everything. I hope you all go broke.”
  • Seeing as the Bulls are in the midst of a massive road trip, I took the opportunity to get my fix by purchasing a game on America One Sports. A reliable (if low-resolution) stream of the in-arena feed with radio piped in from knbr.com was provided… after downloading numerous plug-ins to get the damn thing to run correctly. The ECHL is missing a real opportunity by not working with Roku so the stream can be made available on one’s television. That oversight, combined with the $8 per game (or $30 for a month of games) cost, makes for an adequate service for die-hards or those going through severe Bay Area hockey withdrawl. For the casual fan, I’d stick with going to the ocassional home game.
  • The Bulls lost their 5th straight game 6-1 to the Colorado Eagles (in the midst of a 5-game losing streak themselves) in a rather uninspired performance. Team Toro is currently in last place in the Western Conference, a rather inauspicious position to be in considering only the worst team in the entire conference misses the playoffs.
  • Anyone else see the irony in the Bulls loss being sponsored by stayingahead.com when they played nearly the entire game from behind?
  • Ryan Clowe made a mild splash in the papers (er, on the websites) when it was announced that he had signed with the Bulls. Just as quickly, more information emerged that he had only agreed to join them for practices. Much ado about nothing.

Bulls, Fans Win!!!

A lot was riding on tonight’s game for the San Francisco Bulls. Losers of their inaugural game against the Bakersfield Condors, tonight’s rematch was the only remaining chance for a Bulls home victory before they head out on the road for the next three and a half weeks. Would they rise to the occasion? Would anyone show up after the sellout (tickets sold, plenty of empty seats) for the opener the night before?

Either a grainy photograph of a Bulls goaltender warming up or indisputable proof of the existence of the legendary Cow Palace Wendigo.

The answer to the first question was a resounding yes. Despite incredibly shaky goaltending by starter Taylor Nelson, a plethora of goals propelled Team Toro to a 6-5 victory. A smattering of offensive wizardry by players whom I am not yet familiar with wowed the crowd. The highlight, however, was a spirited kill of a full two-minute five-on-three penalty after the Bulls were whistled for a minor while already on their heels defending a major infraction. The entire arena erupted into a spontaneous standing ovation to honor the boys’ effort.

The promotional giveaway of an orange cow bell was fun and I intend on bringing it to all future home games I attend. Much to my schaudenfreudelight (not a real word, but it should be), an enterprising middle-aged man was roving the stands attempting to sell an inferior black bell at 7 bucks a pop. To the man’s credit, his sardonic life-weary claim that “this is an item you’ll treasure for a lifetime” made me nearly spit up on myself laughing. But selling a $7 cowbell on cowbell giveaway night is an idea so ill-conceived it makes one question the man’s sanity. Or at the very least his grasp of the economic concept of supply and demand.

First person to reference the Christopher Walken SNL skit gets a puck to the trachea.
There was a sharp drop-off in attendance. An announced crowd of approximately 3,600 was on hand to witness the team’s victory. Those in attendance were riveted for most of the game, unless that fancy new sound system is almost supernaturally adept at simulating crowd noise. A between-period trivia game of “Dead or Canadian?” was ghoulish and irreverent and hi-frikkin-larious! My jaw dropped (in a good way) that someone greenlit the idea. The suits at the Shark Tank have had their metaphorical panties in a twist ever since the genius idea of a pre-game jumbotron video showing Sharkie throwing an effigy of Eddie Belfour off the roof of San Jose Arena. I mean, how would Sharkie not know Belfour can’t fly? His nickname is, after all, “The Eagle.” Sharks in-game “entertainment” is cringe-inducingly lame and stuffy nowadays, and I for one am glad that the Bulls seem to have a sense of wicked humor about themselves.

Of course, these are merely the first impressions by a fan starving for hockey and feeling blessed that a new team came along when it did. These two blog posts are not meant to be propaganda or even necessarily promotional of the team. Merely snapshots in time from a blogger that wishes to inform Sharks fans, ECHL fans, and SF Bulls fans about the team and the quality of their on-and-off ice product in an entertaining way. That being said, The San Francisco Bulls are doing a lot of things right and I believe this will be quite a memorable season. Go Bulls!

A Great Night Out– No Bull. Sorry. Last Pun, I promise.

Being a passionate fan of the National Hockey League can often feel like being in an abusive relationship. Gary Bettman and the NHLPA know damn well that whenever they end their foolish lockout that the fans will be back. We always come back.

As puck season approaches, true hockey loyalists feel that familiar tug on their heartstrings. The void that only pucks of vulcanized rubber and grown men with nicknames like “Buster” and “Pickles” can fill. But thanks to Pat Curcio and the San Francisco Bulls, professional men’s ice hockey has returned to the Bay Area.

President. General Manager. Owner. Head Coach. (Usher? Bathroom attendant?) Mr. Curcio is obviously a man of many hats and passionate about this fledgling franchise. Will the Bulls be able to win over Sharks fans, and sports fans in general, in a market already rife with so many choices available for one’s sporting dollar?

The tentative answer is a resounding yes. ECHL hockey is two notches below the level of the NHL (think AA baseball) but the action is still fast and furious. From the first drop of the puck, both teams competed hard and there was plenty of action. The Bulls dropped the game 4-3 to the Bakersfield Condors (a team name so stupid I wince just typing it) but the crowd was cheering and into the game from start to finish.

The Bulls and Condors about to face off in the offensive zone. Photo courtesy of Sara Razavi, and by courtesy I mean I stole it off her Facebook wall.

The mascot Rawhide was a huge hit with both kids and adults. The much maligned idea (in the uber-progressive land of Northern California anyway) of ice girls, or in this case the Cow Belles, was adorable. Having spent years watching a portly middle-aged man with a thick mustache and mop of curly fry hair clean up the ice at San Jose Arena, seeing cute girls in perfectly appropriate attire performing the task quicker and more efficiently was a welcome change of pace. $14.25 will get you in the building and fairly premium seating is available for $26.

It was a near-perfect night out with friends. My father is going through hockey withdrawl himself, and during the second intermission I purchased us a pair of tickets to attend Saturday’s contest. I highly encourage you to do the same, if for no other reason than the Bulls will be on the road until mid-November thanks to the Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock show taking over the Cow Palace for the next few weeks. HP Pavilion gets Lady Gaga, the Cow Palace gets teenage boys in bolo ties breeding goats. Still a few differences between the minors and “The Show”.

Though security rebuffed my attempts at interacting with the team’s cheerleaders the Cow Belles, I was able to get a picture with the Bulls’ mascot Rawhide. Not only that, he didn’t make nearly the fuss about my hand on his ass that the girls did.