January 18, 2015

Chill Factor: How a Minor League Hockey Team Changed A City Forever

The hockey world will set its eyes on Columbus, Ohio next weekend as the National Hockey League mid-season All Star Weekend visits the city.

It is the first time that All Star Weekend will be held in Columbus. That's not really a surprise. The Columbus Blue Jackets have only been in the NHL for 15 years now. For the most part the Blue Jackets have had little impact in the hockey world. There was the expected expansion growing pains followed by a few years of irrelevance, at least outside of Ohio. They made great strides in 2013-14 with strong performances from Ryan Johansen and Sergei Bobrovsky, but have regressed this season thanks in large part to injuries.

Through it all the hockey fans in Columbus have been loyal and supportive. It is proving to be a good hockey market, which has surprised many of us. We wondered about corporate support and lack of a hockey history in a city that loved it's college sports, especially football, which ultimately is a commentary on our ignorance more so than the market place perhaps.

Columbus has had professional hockey since 1966. The International Hockey League hosted three different variations of Columbus hockey. First it was the Checkers, then the Golden Seals, and then the Owls. But by 1977 pro-hockey (and it was pretty low level of minor league hockey back then) had exited Columbus for a decade and a half.

Pretty unimpressive stuff, so far.

In 1991 the ECHL welcomed the Columbus Chill, and the hockey landscape changed forever in Columbus.

Chill Factor: How A Minor League Hockey Team Changed A City Forever is a new book that examines how this minor league hockey team changed a city forever, and paved the way for the National Hockey League's arrival by the turn of the century. It is written by long time Columbus sports writer Craig Merz along with former Chill president and general manager David Paitson.

Paitson was the man very much responsible for much of the success. He was the marketing genius who used edgy and innovative campaigns that attracted the attention of the town. It was refreshing and an authentic, and at times controversial. But this Ohio State University mad town were very receptive to their aggressive tactics (one reporter called going to the hockey game was like "the world's ;arg and, against long odds, really supported their upstart minor league hockey team. The rink was filled, including one stretch of 83 consecutive sell-outs.

Chill Factor is a fun story of off-the-wall marketing and keen vision turning a college sports town into a a major league NHL city. And with that Columbus' sleepy downtown was transformed thanks to the billions of dollars of development created by the new downtown arena. And with that, the city's status was changed in the eyes of outsiders.

It is told through the words of the man responsible for setting that vision, sports executive David Paitson.

Buy The Book - Amazon.ca - Chapters - Amazon.com


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