You might call it a buzz. Trevor Murphy describes it as “positive curiosity.”
Whatever the label, there’s little doubt the National Basketball League of Canada’s St. John’s Edge have generated something that’s got people talking about the expansion club.
For the Edge’s management team, the challenge now is to keep that generator running during the team’s long absence from Mile One Centre and from competition within the league.
St. John’s has built up an 8-4 record in the early part of its first season in NBL Canada, a run that includes wins in all four of its games at Mile One. However, the Edge, who finished up a road trip on Sunday, don’t hit the court competitively again until Jan. 9, when they take on the Windsor Express. And with their last game at Mile One having been on Dec. 6, that makes it almost five weeks between home games.
A motor might run out of gas in that long a stretch.
“It is a big challenge,” admits Murphy, the Edge’s director of operations and the team’s assistant general manager
“For us, our work is to maintain the vibe that is out there and even build on it. The initial reaction has been so positive, I think it’s possible.”
“Of course, we wanted to see players get involved with the fans, but the way that took off was just kind of a really neat thing and it was largely because of the players themselves. They wanted those touch points, that engagement with the fans.”
With only a few members of the Edge in St. John’s between now and Dec. 29, when the team — now scattered all over the continent for Christmas — reassembles, Murphy and the front office staff have been busy doing things that don’t directly involve players, including ticket sales. For example, a special two-ticket, two-t-shirt, $30 holiday bundle and an $18 flex ticket are being offered until the end of this week. They’re also planning team activities within the community for when the players return, especially given there will still be a week and a half between then and that Jan. 9 game against the Express.
“It is a strange break in the schedule,” notes Murphy of the gameless stretch, a result of the Edge’s late entry into the league when much of the 2017-18 schedule — especially during these few weeks — had already been nailed down.
“We’ll try to make the most of it. We’ll make sure we’re in the gym with the players, capturing what’s going on there with their practices, and guys will be in the community.
“We’re going to do everything we can, from an organizational perspective, to keep the guys in the forefront.
“School visits are in the works. We’re looking at grass-roots basketball programs that should be big for us and we’re looking at partnering with local organizations. For example, we want to get involved in anti-bullying campaigns.
“We want to be a piece of the community.”
According to Murphy, such planning has been made easier because of the enthusiasm of the Edge players.
“They’ve been absolutely outstanding,” he said.” A testament to that is how they’ve stayed out on the court after every home game and spent a fair amount of time with the fans, having pictures taken with them, signing autographs and just talking to them.”
“Of course, we wanted to see players get involved with the fans, but the way that took off was just kind of a really neat thing and it was largely because of the players themselves. They wanted those touch points, that engagement with the fans.
“We’ve even seen some really cool moments during games, with high fives and fist bumps with fans. In those moments between whistles, there are some pretty cool things happening.”
Murphy said it’s been a contributor to initial reactions that range between simple interest and outright enthusiasm. And through four games, the team averaged more than 3,000 fans per night at Mile One.
“The term I kept using is ‘positive curiosity.’ Now that people have seen it, there’s a lot of talk about the Edge and how they play,’ said Murphy
“They’re telling us it is entertaining, high energy and that the atmosphere is great for fans, young and old. The fact that you’re out walking around town and people are stopping you to talk about professional basketball, about the Edge, that’s very cool thing.
“Now, we just have to keep them talking.”