Tuesday, August 9, 2011

P-Bruins Commentary: How to enhance the atmosphere at The Dunk

Let’s be clear right off the draw. As a staff, the off-ice personnel at the Dunkin Donuts Center have to be doing something right in their efforts to make the Providence Bruins an enticing entertainment product.

How else could this team have seen an increase in average nightly attendance in each of the last two seasons, despite being back-to-back Calder Cup playoff no-shows? How else could the P-Bruins have steadily ascended the AHL’s attendance leaderboard even as the league has expanded the last three seasons?

On the whole, the experience of taking in a P-Bruins game is always worth the full price. That said, there is always room for improvement and even in winning causes, there are always magnets for critique. (Just as the parent club, who discharged Tomas Kaberle with little hesitation so soon after he partook in their run to the Stanley Cup this past spring.)

When it comes to building up the environment on game night at The Dunk, in this author’s view, there are four key strategies the P-Bruins must take up for improvement this coming season.

1. Straighten out the pregame introductions
Regulars at The Dunk are dared to do a comprehensive YouTube search of intro videos for other AHL teams and face a disheartening revelation. Apart from opening night, the P-Bruins are practically the only pro hockey team on the continent that does not rev up its fans for a game by darkening the building and flashing a highlight video.

To add insult to injury, you sometimes wonder if they’re even trying behind the scenes, especially when the players’ emergence for the first period coincides with the announcement of the starting lineup.

For the love of Charles F. Adams, get it together. These guys are one step away from The Show. Act like you give a sizzling slap shot and are actually interested in creating a professional atmosphere.

Get with the program and have a three-to-four minute music/highlight video immediately before anyone steps on the ice. Maybe emulate your Boston counterparts and have the video culminate with the Spoked-P destroying the visitor’s emblem and/or stock footage of a growling bear.

And then, either introduce the six starters before they step out or wait to carry out that task until everyone has come out and skated a few laps around their respective zones.

2. Make more use of the video screen
To a not-so-negligible extent, it’s good for a minor league team to just be its own team, even one who chose the nickname of their NHL affiliate specifically to woo local fans. In that respect, certain distinctions at The Dunk, such as playing “Rock and Roll Part II” for goals rather than the parent club’s “Kernkraft 400,” are best left alone.

That said, there is one key way the P-Bruins could Xerox the Garden HDX playbook and generate more entertainment and energy when the home team lights the lamp. Before the goal is replayed on the jumbo screen at center ice, there ought to be a stock clip of celebratory dancing.

For local flavor, try any number of reasonably tasteful Family Guy dance numbers. And, of course, you’ve got to bring out shots of retired traffic cop Tony Lepore once in a while.

3. Adopt an unofficial theme song
The most energized TV timeouts at TD Garden tend to be when “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” is broadcast over the PA system. Surely, the Baby Bs could find a specific tune to play once each game while the game is halted for a minute and a half and the ice-level crew shovels snow.

Yes, you are already pretty sure to hear Billy Idol’s rendition of “Mony Mony” and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” at these points. But there has to be something newer, higher-tempo and just plain better for the game and this team.

Might this author suggest “Meant To Live” by Switchfoot? If played correctly, this song can have just enough time to run through its first verse and chorus, and then roll into the second verse. At that point, the recording can briefly stop after “Dreaming about…” and allow the crowd to shout the lyric “Providence!”

Then, if there’s time, top that off by letting Jon Foreman continue with “and wondering whether mice or men have second tries.” Then, if need be, top off the break with the evening’s umpteenth chant of “Let’s go Bruins.”

4. Give Sam Boni a more visible role
It’s been years since the P-Bruins mascot ever set foot on the ice surface prior to a game or during intermissions, a common occurrence during the team’s first decade-plus of existence.

More recently, Sam Boni has been inexplicably relegated to lingering around the concourse for most of the night, making cameo appearances in the seating area between periods. And apparently, the game day crew’s most logical plan to reach out to grade-school-aged fans in lieu of the mascot is to play the “SpongeBob Squarepants” theme late in the third period.

Come on. You’re better than that. Get your mascot off the pine and get back to stoking kids’ interests in the game the honest and relevant way.