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Chris Porreca's challenge

2011-02-11T01:05:00Z 2011-02-11T02:51:45Z Chris Porreca's challengeBy Tim McManus -- Commentary Glens Falls Post-Star
February 11, 2011 1:05 am  • 

GLENS FALLS -- Chris Porreca seems like a pretty well-intentioned guy.

He comes across as competent, liked by his staff and respected by those he's dealt with in the community.

As an area resident, he has a vested interested in doing whatever he can to keep the American Hockey League here long term. He seems sincere in that commitment.

All that is well and good. I'm just not sure how much difference it's going to make in the long run.

The one thing the Phantoms new executive vice president can't control is the product on the ice. And that's a much bigger factor in driving ticket sales than ownership wants to admit.

I've heard it all a million times: Minor league sports are about the experience. They're about family entertainment. Most people don't even know the final score.

Surely, that's the case in many places. Not here.

Don't just take my word. Here's what league president David Andrews said during all-star weekend:

"Take a look at the standings. There's a correlation between how a team plays, especially in a traditional hockey market and how many people are going to the games."

Traditional market is the key phrase. You can't sell bad hockey to a town that grew up watching four Calder Cup banners get raised.

If the Phantoms were on their way to a second-straight playoff berth, does anyone really think we'd be talking about Mike Thompson getting fired this week?

Conversely, the odds of us considering Porreca as a genius this time next year will be a lot higher if the team is in first place.

Remember, Thompson didn't just have a bad product to sell this season. It was historically bad for the first three months of the season.

Tacked on top of the usual dip in attendance second-year teams go through as the initial excitement wanes, he had a nearly impossible job, especially when he had to fight from Day 1 the perception the team was only temporary.

Porreca inherits many of those challenges. His burden will be time, or lack thereof.

I can no longer say with confidence the Phantoms will be in Glens Falls beyond next season. This move drives home the critical nature of the situation. The time is short to come up with that famous long-term model for the AHL that the Brookses keep talking about.

Understandably, Porreca didn't have a whole lot of specifics Thursday on how things will change under his stewardship. Have to give the guy more than 24 hours in the job.

I think the changes will come down less to policy than personality. Adirondack hockey needs a dictator, so to speak. It needs someone who can will their vision into reality against strong currents.

It needs someone who can micromanage and weed out some of the clumsiness that pervades the club's public relations. It needs someone who can make decisions without going through layers of bureaucracy with the Brookses. It needs someone who can sell a subpar product on the force of his personality.

Is Chris Porreca that guy? Is anyone?

Let's see if hockey is here three years from now.

Tim McManus covers the Adirondack Phantoms. He may be reached at tmcmanus@poststar.com.

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