Local News

Saturday, Sep 15 2012 07:11 PM

Condor promotion irks Stockton residents

BY LOIS HENRY Californian columnist email: lhenry@bakersfield.com

Whatever you think of the Bakersfield Condors' actual hockey skills you have to admire the team's marketing, um, hustle.

Their pranks have regularly raised the hackles of opposing fans and, more importantly, put butts in the seats at Condor games.

The team once handed out rolls of toilet paper with the now defunct Fresno Falcon's logo on the sheets and put the Stockton Thunder's logo on the business end of plungers.

But not even such distasteful, if funny, frat boy antics received the rebuke of their latest promotion.

The team is promoting its Dec. 27 game against the Stockton Thunder as "Our City Isn't Bankrupt Night" and is giving out phoney "million dollar bills" and Rolls Royces. (In case you hadn't heard, Stockton declared bankruptcy earlier this summer.)

That seems a lot less outrageous than the potty stuff, but not to Thunder President Dan Chapman and a couple of Stockton Record sports columnists.

Chapman gave Stockton fans a heads up to the Condors' promotion Wednesday on the teams' Facebook page and that was followed up by a blog post from Record columnist Scott Linesburgh on Thursday who urged a boycott of the game, which was followed by an even longer tongue lashing by fellow Record columnist Bob Highfill in Friday's paper.

Their overall take was that the Condors are classless, low-lifes who care more about selling tickets than Stockton's financial pain.

Matt Riley, Condors' team president, did apologize to anyone who took the promotion more seriously than it was intended.

"It was not our intent to make fun of people who may have lost their jobs," he said. "And we sincerely apologize to anyone who took it that way."

His job, the Condors' job, he said, is to keep the doors open, stay relevant and provide the public with a few hours entertainment.

"We try not to take ourselves too seriously."

But you can't please everyone, he said. Even the team's contract offer to pop star Justin Bieber, clearly meant to be funny, generated calls from people who felt it was an affront to serious hockey players.

And, yes, promotions take some liberties to generate attention, stir up the fan base and, hopefully, sell tickets.

The Record's Highfill acknowledged that, saying, "The Condors' motivation behind this stunt obviously is to create attention, and maybe by actually acknowledging it, I am playing right into their hands."

But that was only after he piously called it "beyond classless, beyond bad taste, beyond what any reasonable person would consider good-natured promotional fun" and said it cannot and will not be ignored.

Thunder fan outrage exploded on both teams Facebook pages.

Condors' management was likened to thugs, accused of teaching hatred to America's youth called unprofessional and an embarrassment to the East Coast Hockey League.

Of course, there were the usual Bakersfield-armpit cracks as well.

Riley was surprised by the vehement reaction.

"I'd think the plunger with their logo was way more offensive," Riley said.

To try and make amends, Riley is thinking up a new promotion that may include offering Stockton city employees a two-for-one ticket deal. "Or any city employee for that matter."

And he may add a subtitle to the "Our City Isn't Bankrupt" line, such as " Boomtown Bakersfield" in acknowledgement of the relatively good economy being enjoyed here.

"We've always had a friendly rivalry with Stockton and we plan on continuing that friendship, at least off the ice," he said.

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