Danny Williams stood at the podium on the floor of Mile One Centre Friday morning, some 10 or 20 feet from what will be the St. John’s IceCaps’ players bench come Oct. 14, opening night.
Surrounding Williams were all kinds of smiley, happy faces. There were giddy fans, on hand for the team’s official naming and logo unveiling. And a chipper sponsor or two, happy to shake hands and slap backs now that the American Hockey League is back in town.
But the bulk of the beaming grins were those of the big, wide yellow faces — the smiley signs taped to Mile One’s seats, indicating they’d been sold as part of the team’s season-ticket drive.
And there were lots of them. About 4,700 of them.
For the next three years, the St. John’s IceCaps will be playing before 5,000 people 38 times a year. At least.
No wonder Williams was smiling.
“Look at the happy faces,” Williams said, himself barely able to contain the laughter. “It makes me feel good.”
The IceCaps have come a long in a real short period of time. Put it this way: Williams and Glenn Stanford are putting together in 10 or 12 weeks what would normally take eight months or a year.
“It’s been 6 o’clock in the morning to 9:30 or 10 o’clock at night, every day, seven days a week,” said Stanford, back ‘home’ after stints in Idaho and Southern Ontario, after the Maple Leafs, the last AHL team to reside in St. John’s, bolted for Toronto to become the Marlies after 14 years in Newfoundland.
This isn’t Stanford’s first rodeo. He pieced together the Maple Leafs in a relatively short period of time in 1990, when Toronto brought their farm club from Newmarket, Ont., to St. John’s. He did it again two years ago, working in a consulting role for the Abbotsford, B.C. ,Heat, the new farm team for the Calgary Flames.
From sun-up to sundown, Stanford’s sequestered in what-will-be coach Keith McCambridge’s office, working a landline and a pair of cell phones like an off-the-Strip Vegas bookie.
His personal organizer manoeuvres him through big-money sponsorship deals, to picking out the dressing room carpet.
Like any Newfoundlander, Stanford’s most comfortable at home. And let’s face it, in Hamilton, where he was the Bulldogs’ president and governor, he was another face in the crowd. In St. John’s, the guy can pert near walk on water.
“I’d rather be in the position I’m in right now,” said Stanford. “As much as it’s been hard work over the past five or six weeks, it’s been pretty exciting.
“I think there would be a lot of guys in the AHL who would love to be in my shoes, and would love to walk out in that building and see 4,000 seats sold, see corporate partners and the community step up like they have.”
The IceCaps will stage their final seat-selection Sunday for season-ticket holders. It’s the ticket-buying public, and the corporate partnerships that Williams and Stanford first targeted, maybe because it’s those two which are the greatest source of revenue.
With the ticketing and sponsorship (the hockey team retains all corporate sponsorship, rinkboard advertising and ice logo revenue) all but locked up, the focus now turns to the hundred other details left on the docket before opening night.
“You’re trying to find office space, dealing with contractors on the dressing room, dealing with a lot of different things,” Stanford said. “You’re day is going from big-ticket items to coming back to your desk and dealing with small-picture items. And there’s hundreds of them.
“But we’ll get them done. And we’ll be ready for the new season.”
Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org