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