The Phantoms made a major announcement Wednesday afternoon about the future of their franchise.
Wait, you missed the big hullabaloo? Me too.
As far as I can tell, the news release went out to an Allentown-specific media list that bypassed the usual sources to disseminate information.
I find no mention on the team’s official Twitter or Facebook or web pages, and none of the reporters I checked with who cover the team received an emailed release on Wednesday. (I did, however, get bombarded on those channels Wednesday for a $10 ticket promotion because the “boss is away.” Whatever that means.)
I understand, and have written at length, about the tightrope the Phantoms have to walk when marketing their club. They’re in a delicate spot.
They have to promote their product in the Lehigh Valley, without being insensitive or turning off ticket-buyers in Glens Falls, who are naturally going to be heartbroken (for the third time in the last 15 years) when their team leaves.
I’m not sure there’s a good way to balance those competing interests and I’m happy it’s not my job. I do know, though, that what the Phantoms did this week was silly.
You can’t just make a major announce and pretend to half your fan base it didn’t happen.
For one thing, the internet exists. And you can only keep something regional for as long as it takes for the Google Alerts to chime or for the right person to click retweet. Then the whole world knows anyway.
In this case, it took about two hours.
They also missed a chance to make a bigger splash. With the dearth of hockey news thanks to the lockout, sites like ours and Broad Street Hockey and the like would have made a bigger deal of this had there been some kind of ceremony or official unveiling.
The news got about five lines in The Philadelphia Inquirer. An opportunity was missed here.
But beyond that, the Phantoms should have no reason to hide from their Adirondack fan base. They’ve done nothing except what they’ve always promised.
You can take the occasional quibble with how the Phantoms have been run there, but on one point, they’re unassailable.
They came to Glens Falls when no one else did. They never promised to stay forever. They ended up staying two or more years longer than ever planned.
The Phantoms should be proud of that legacy and confront it head on. No need to try to sneak news out the backdoor.
I understand they can’t afford to infuriate their Glens Falls base. And there’s a vocal minority who will criticize them for leaving no matter what they do.
But I think people want to be treated like adults. Tell them what’s going on. There’s a way to do this that is respectful of the fans in Glens Falls while preparing for the inevitable move.
“The Phantoms are proud to announce that upon their move to Allentown in 2014-15 they will be known as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“The organization remains grateful to their fans in the Glens Falls area and will continue to strive to put the best possible product in the arena every night for as long as we’re here. You’ll always be a part of our history that won’t be forgotten and we’ll work tirelessly to make sure another team moves in here when we’re gone. This a terrific hockey market and we’d have never made it our next stop without your support.”
My imaginary release could then go on to explain the reasoning behind the Lehigh Valley name, same as the other did.
It does no one any good to pretend this isn’t happening.
But this is an organization so fearful of bad press that, at the behest of the highest levels of management, titles their comically positive press releases after blowout losses things like “Penalty-filled affair in return home.”
(I’ve always found this practice strange, since the owners say winning isn’t all that important to ticket sales anyway.)
Believe me, people around the league are laughing at that more than if you just told them what happened straight.
The same applies here.