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December 19, 2014

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Ice Ice Billy

Wranglers’ game 1 promotion is next to the legal pads

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STEPHEN SYLVANIE / SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Las Vegas Wranglers surround goaltender Mitch O’Keefe during pre-game warmup exercises prior to the start of Game 2 of the ECHL Western Conference Finals at the Orleans Arena on Friday, April 27, 2012.

In 2008, the Las Vegas Wranglers hosted Games 3, 4 and 5 against Cincinnati in the ECHL Kelly Cup Championship Finals. As the Wranglers were in the Queen City knotting up the series at one game apiece on a late third-period goal by current Wrangler Adam Miller, "Red Sea in Game 3" was the marketing message back here at home.

The virtual sellout in Game 3 looked and felt remarkable. The fans were thrilled to be asked to play along and the arena was full of red, especially when the visiting Cyclones skated out wearing their red jerseys.

Screech. Or, screech?

A few complaints came our way decrying a perceived attention-to-detail breakdown. But the point was to generate a descriptive battle cry in this valley's theater of noise. The call to arms had to be understood when it was passed along the 215 at 70 mph. It had to be memorable, and it always helps when it sounds like Dr. Seuss wrote it.

And of course, the color red is the primary color of the team's logo.

Late last week, the Wranglers hatched an idea to promote Post-It Note night for Monday's ECHL Kelly Cup Game 1 matchup against the Florida Everblades at the Orleans Arena.

It was a simple concept with difficult execution, really. Have all of the fans cover themselves in those little sticky squares to encourage fan inclusion and create an atmosphere that provided a greater home ice advantage.

But, as with all great ideas, this one had its limitations. There is a trademark on "Post-It Note" which would keep those geniuses over in marketing from confidently promoting the idea without it becoming a legal liability.

We dug deep into our office supplies cabinet for something for the city to really sink its teeth into, and alas we found that little bottle of White Out.

Of course, a White Out is familiar to hockey fans, sort of. I say, "sort of," because while it is renowned, it is not frequently used in its purest form.

"White Out" has a trademark attached to it, owned by the National Hockey League's Phoenix Coyotes. How and why Phoenix? The White Out was the washer and dryer that came with the house when the house was acquired from the city of Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg Jets began the "Winnipeg White Out" to combat the "C of Red" launched by the Calgary Flames in the 1987 Stanley Cup Playoffs. It became a Winnipeg playoff tradition thereafter. But the Jets packed up and headed to the Arizona desert in 1996 where the playoff White Out would sit idly next to the staples and mechanical pencil lead until the team could muster its more recent playoff appearances.

Phoenix has dutifully enforced its rights to the marketing term, perhaps most notably in taking on Penn State and ending the use of the phrase on any type of Nittany Lions merchandise.

The worry for the Wranglers isn't really if the home town good guys might get two minutes in the box for trademark infringement. When it comes to marketing, the goal is to guarantee the locals know exactly what is being communicated, invite people to join in, and say it all in four words or less.

"Red Sea in Game 3" was the message in 2008. OK, so it's not four words, but technically it's not five words, either.

For Monday's Game 1, we got it down to just two words.

Wear White.

It's descriptive. It's a "call to action" - as the marketing professionals would say. And there are no possible cease and desist letters. It's all in place, and so now we wait anxiously through this weekend to start the series on Monday.

Say, that reminds me: I owe a return call about the Wranglers' pending claim for that little "TM" to attach to "Rod Blagojevich Prison Uniform Night," you know, in case somebody in the NHL gets any bright ideas.

Billy Johnson is the president and chief operating officer of the Las Vegas Wranglers.

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